Appeal to Flattery


The argument attempts to persuade by flattering the person to be persuaded, implying that the flattery is deserved because he or she accepts the position being supported.



This fallacy is sometimes called Appeal to Vanity. The fallacy that I call Appeal to Rugged Individualism sometimes has aspects of this fallacy about it: the claim that you should "be yourself" and "go your own way" can imply that you are special or unusual (in a good way) which can be a source of flattery.



"An intelligent and discerning person like you will naturally see the force of my argument."


"I use Love Soap. I'm worth it, and so are you."



In any conversation we must try to understand what the other person is saying. Perhaps the other person is offering reasons for holding an opinion, and perhaps his reasons are complex, requiring some effort to understand. (Not all good reasoning is easy to follow.) Supposing that you do understand his reasoning, he may be inclined to praise your ability to follow the argument. He is not wrong to offer such praise, and you are not wrong to feel pleased with yourself. You can even take such praise as evidence that you are understanding his point correctly, and this, in turn, may indicate that, since you can undersand his reasoning, his reasoning is sound and you agree with it.

The fallacy of Appeal to Flattery mimics this situation in which a reasoner praises his listener for correctly following and agreeing with a complex logical argument. However, in the fallacy of Appeal to Flattery, only the praise is still present. This creates the mere illusion that the complex logical argument, and the agreement that would come from following it, are present as well. In fact, no argument was given except the praise, and the agreement was implied rather than real.


Source: I first became aware of this fallacy from Gerald Runkle, Good Thinking: An Introduction to Logic (1978).  Although this is almost certainly not the earliest reference to this fallacy, I have not so far been able to identify an earlier source.


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