Appeal to Gravity


The argument attempts to persuade by invoking a wish to be serious.



Some characteristic ways to express this fallacy may be to defend a position as "responsible" and "mature," or to attack an opposing position by calling it "frivolous" or "disrespectful."



"The President's tax proposal lacks detail. Clearly it does not come to grips with genuine problems in a serious manner."


"John Kerry is a serious man for a serious job in a serious time in our country's history." - Hillary Rodham Clinton (2004) at the Democratic National Convention



Naturally we wish to reason carefully and well when we are reasoning about especially serious and important subjects. As far as that goes, reasoning well about frivolous subjects may also be difficult, and require serious concentration. Hence careful reasoning often has an air of seriousness and intensity about it. People who are thinking hard tend to frown.

The fallacy of Appeal to Gravity imitates this air of seriousness and intensity, without, however, actually being serious and intense. Saying that something is so doesn't make it so. Just because an arguer tells us that he is being serious, it does not follow that he is actually being serious; and just because a person is frowning, it does not follow that he is thinking. He may just have a headache.


Source: I named this fallacy myself during the 2000 election campaign, when one of the central issues was whether George W. Bush had enough "gravitas" to be president.


WELCOME                     EXPLANATION OF PRINCIPLES                                     TABLE OF FALLACIES                        EXERCISES                     INDEX