What Is an Example of an Appeal to Pity Fallacy?

Logically Fallacious states that a student arguing for a better test grade because she was studying during her grandmother's funeral is an example of an appeal to pity fallacy. The professor might feel sympathy for the student's problems and give her a higher grade. Logically Fallacious defines an appeal to pity as a logical fallacy in which the statement attempts to distract from the truth and inspire a conclusion based on pity.

Appeals to pity break down into two logical forms, according to Logically Fallacious. The first is: "Person 1 is accused of Y, but person 1 is pathetic. Therefore, Person 1 is innocent." The second form is: "X is true because person 1 worked really hard at making X true."

The appeal to pity fallacy is also known as argumentum ad miserecordiam, according to the Philosophy Department website of Lander University. The department website gives the example of a speeding motorist trying to talk his way out of a ticket by claiming to be on his way to visit a sick wife after losing his job. While illness and unemployment are unfortunate, they are not relevant to breaking the speed limit.

The Lander University Philosophy Department makes the distinction between appeals to pity based on unrelated misfortune and logical arguments for which suffering is relevant. The site gives the example of arguing for disaster relief aid after a tidal wave as a situation in which human suffering is appropriate to the discussion.