Pathos gambit

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Take your feelings, roll them up, and shove them up your ass. That's the problem with you SJWs; you think your feelings trump everything else in the universe.
Facts don't care about your feelings.
Ben Shapiro[2]

The pathos gambit (also reverse appeal to emotion) is a pathetic logical fallacy in which one debater falsely claims that their opponent is using emotional arguments (pathos)Wikipedia rather than factual arguments (logos).Wikipedia Emotional arguments are quite obviously not logically sound, and are a whole class of fallacies themselves. However, the pathos gambit poisons the well by painting an opponent as too emotional/biased to approach a subject rationally — while, presumably, the gambit-maker is a bastion of Vulcan reason. Unfortunately, it is easier to paint someone as emotional/biased than to scrub off said paint.

The gambit is an informal fallacy. It is valid only in circumstances below:

  1. The opponent is so emotional/biased that they cannot step back and examine facts rationally, like Juror #3 in 12 Angry Men.Wikipedia This is very difficult to prove in most casual encounters and the burden of proof rests with the accuser — not the accused. It can take years for people to truly get to know each other. Assuming that a few minutes of interaction (especially text-only, online interaction) with someone are sufficient to fully understand their intentions and their thought process comes dangerously close to fallacious Bulverism (and that's assuming that it's not outright crossing the line). Or:
  2. The opponent's arguments are substantially based on how certain things make them feel. Notably, this is not the same as mentioning one's feelings on an issue (i.e., "X is dumb because Y and makes me feel sad") — this is saying that one's feelings necessarily prove some conclusion, independent of the facts (i.e., "X is dumb because X makes me feel sad").

In short: If someone makes an argument and mentions their feelings, saying "feelings bad!!" or "facts trump feelings" is not a sufficient rebuttal.

This fallacy is disproportionately common among atheists and skeptics (likely because each face disproportionately more emotional appeals for gods and pseudosciences). It is also common amongst the modern anti-"SJW" crowd — which, somewhat ironically, appears to have desensitized actual SJWs to emotion-based arguments.

Alternate names[edit]

  • Feels not reals (or vice versa)
  • "Pushing the narrative"


Strong form:

P1: [X]'s arguments are based on [X]'s feelings about the issue and have no supporting facts.
P2: (unstated, but valid) Arguments based only in emotion are false.
C: [X]'s arguments are false.

Whether the argument is fallacious rests on whether P1 is true. If P1 is true, then [X] has committed an appeal to emotion and their arguments fall. If P1 is false, however, then accusing them of an appeal to emotion is fallacious.

Weak form:

P1: While presenting their arguments, [X] was emotional in some way (used emotional language, gestures, etc.).
P2: (unstated) Arguments stated by an emotional person are false.
C: [X]'s arguments are false.

This form is very difficult to uphold. There are very few cases (especially in terms of Internet debates) in which someone is so extremely emotional that their testimony can be completely discounted for that reason alone. This is even more true if the person has factual, sourced statements around which they are basing their emotion — in which case, their emotions shouldn't even be the substance of the debate.


Reexamine all you have been told … dismiss that which insults your soul.
—Walt Whitman, immediately before being called out for "feels not reals"[3]

Gwyfyoung, author of "The Ethics Of…", outlines the basic problem behind use of the pathos gambit. Stephen Fry objected to a group of students at Oxford College who wanted to tear down a statue of extremely pro-imperialist Cecil Rhodes,Wikipedia because he thought that they were doing it on the grounds of being "offended":[4]

While Fry acknowledges that Rhodes represents values we rightly no longer hold today, he objects to the removal of the statue as a form of censorship – censorship which he believes is based on people being offended. And Stephen Fry has never been shy on what he thinks about offense[:]

It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more … than a whine.

'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase.

'I am offended by that.' Well, so fucking what?

[D]oes Fry have a point? Well he's right on one thing at least[:] the fact you find something offensive doesn't mean squat when it comes to ethics. As I've written many times before, much like taste in music, favourite colour or preference in sexual partners, offense is a subjective thing – the mere fact that you are offended by something makes it offensive to you. Why you find it offensive, or whether you have a good reason or not are both irrelevant – the thing makes you upset and that's all there is to it.

So if it[']s facts we should be concerned with and offense is indeed irrelevant, then Mr Fry must be vindicated in his comments, right. Well no. See[,] while dear Stephen is right about offensiveness, he's actually guilty of the exact thing he's complaining about in the video – he's demanding others change their behaviour based on how it makes him feel, with a total disregard for the facts.

For starters let's consider the whole issue of removing Cecil Rhode's[sic] statue. Yeah the group wanting it removed are undoubtedly offended by it, but that doesn't matter so let's ignore it. Why do they want it removed however? Because it represents a period in Britain's history and a set of values that they oppose and do not think should be celebrated. And while Stephen Fry acknowledges these points (and actually agrees with them), he completely fails to rebut them; instead he just says that we shouldn't make decisions based on what is offensive and moves on like that's an answer.

Given we don’t seem to have a problem pulling down statues of Stalin or Saddam Hussein when those monsters were toppled, the argument that Cecil "white man's burden" Rhodes should be exempt from that treatment seems a bit odd. After all[,] this is just a statue we’re talking about here; it’s not like the group want[s] to purge all knowledge of the man from history[;] they just want to stop celebrating the bastard like he's worthy of it. Perhaps not a conclusive argument, but one worthy of a fact-based response at least – something Fry completely fails to deliver.

In other words, it is not sufficient to merely call out your opponent for being emotional — you also have to contest their facts, or else you, too, are acting based on emotion alone.

One could also argue that the point of a statue which glorifies any particular individual is intended to evoke an emotional response, as it is, after all, a work of Art. In such a situation, the emotion which the statue is intended to evoke is part of why its removal may be considered. Since the context is less neutral than if, say, the statue was in a museum, it makes less sense to claim that not actively promoting Rhodes is a form of censorship, since it's essentially a way of convincing someone that Rhodes wasn't quite so bad (an objective lie).

Another means of battling the fallacy is to argue that feelings have physical effects on people, something which the field of psychology has demonstrated time and again. Calling someone a racial slur may not physically harm them, but it sure as hell will hurt them emotionally (and it makes you a racist asshole).


Respectful Hitler[edit]

Respectful Hitler.

Adolf Hitler: I just want to murder all the Jews and take over the world, but, hey, that's your opinion and I'm fine with that. Looks like you've got some growing up to do.


The underlying logic of the pathos gambit is often clearest when used in parody — though said parody is often not seen as such.

Evidence is a white cis male invention: the SJW parody personality Godfrey Elfwick made fun of "SJW" logic:[5]

"Evidence" is a white cis male invention which enables them to always be right. "Evidence" doesn't mean shit in the real world.

The Tweet was then widely used as evidence of "SJWs" preferring their feelings over fact.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

Scientific evidence that obesity is harmful = lies: The "Truest Feminist" (Tumblr), which is an open parody, posted this:[12] posted[13]

Obesity alone can cause heart damage, even absent other risk factors, researchers found. They used a super sensitive blood test to detect a protein that heralds heart muscle injury — even in those without symptoms of heart disease — and adds to the risk of heart failure down the road.

No. It doesn't. You're lying. This is lies. Shut the hell up.

In turn, this was widely taken as serious, and roundly condemned.[14][15][16][17]

Fat = omniscient: The "Feels not Reals" Tumblr has a personal description:[18]

I'm fat, therefore I am a special snowflake and know all about opreshun because of my condishun


  • @Eris_1_: "SJW gem from @_gretchie: my feelings trump scientific evidence".[19]
  • In general, anything posted under #SJWLogic on Twitter.[20]
  • This beautiful vandalism, which caricatures its enemies as easily-defeated emotional wrecks and its supporters as objective, unemotional, and unstoppable:[21]

Sargon is a God and can in no means be stopped.
His intention is to weed out radical feminists such as Sarkeesian and throw them in the garbage like the trash they are.
Whining radicals often cry buckets of tears over how their "campaign of rights" is getting slammed.
To Feminism, Social Justice, and Those related to Third-Wave Feminism:
You're all crackheaded fools.
The First and Second Waves were enough, we don't need landwhales with hair dye parading for "Petuniakin Jihadi Transqueer" Rights.
Sincerely, The CORRECT minds.

External links[edit]


  2. Pinned tweet from February 5, 2016
  3. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1855). p. 7. Full quote: "re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body."
  12. Combine all the words in slashes for the truth: I'M MOCKING RADICAL FEMINISTS
  19. SJW gem from @_gretchie: my feelings trump scientific evidence #SJWLogic by Eris (6:58 PM - 7 Jun 2015) Twitter (archived from August 27, 2019).