Talk:Appeal to trauma

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Psycho-dynamic dogma[edit]

Good topic, though the term "appeal to trauma" appears very little used. @Carthage Where did you see it used, or are you coining it?

Anyway, this reminds me of what I read in works by George K. Simon, a psychologist who specializes in manipulative behavior. He describes how there was an entrenched dogma rooted in Freudian thought, according to which no one ever wants to do "evil" (i.e. hurtful, harmful things) deep down inside, and absolutely all bad behavior is due to some trauma, which if not known must be "uncovered" through psychoanalysis -- or sometimes can be rid of by simply trying to boost the self-esteem of the perpetrator. In the US at any rate, Simon relates how it was only with the cognitive and behavioral paradigm gaining force in the 1990s that this old dogma came to really be questioned in the world of mental health professionals trying to counsel or act as therapists, though he still encounters those faithful to the old dogma.

An anecdote which I think is from an earlier book by Simon, is about one time Simon presented his ideas and a staunch psycho-dynamics proponent in the audience disagreed on the existence of real ill will. While that wasn't rare, at one time there was a disagreement on why cats torture mice. Is it that cats do it because they like it (a predatory drive and thrill), or are the cats actually afraid of mice deep down, and neurotically acting out in anger out of insecurity, perhaps having been traumatized by mice in their kitten childhood? The Freudian suggested that you could in principle view it in the latter way even with cats.

In his later book Character Disturbance, Simon divides people with problems into two largely quite opposite groups: the neurotic, who care too much, over-learn from negative experiences, may have developed trauma, and mainly trouble themselves; and usually by contrast (there's some overlap) the character-disturbed, who care too little, under-learn from negative experience, seldom are deeply troubled by anything, and mainly trouble others. They usually need very different help. The former need acceptance, help in understanding themselves better, etc. The latter need correction and a push to develop any real principles, with the incentive of better options for life ahead, and they already have more self-esteem than most people (but not any deeper self-respect based on idealism and a personal track record). The neurotic may act out as a result of being hurt and confused. The character-disturbed just feel entitled to do what they feel like, and may cynically feign that they're hurt and need understanding because they know it's a cultural cliche and often an easy way to manipulate their way into sympathy and out of responsibility. --ApooftGnegiol (talk) 22:15, 9 November 2023 (UTC)

Another way to look at this, and it's maybe a bit broader than an "appeal to trauma", is the nature of psychological "compensation theories". While such theories may sometimes turn out true, just like conspiracy theories occasionally do, most of the time they are an escape from reality, a little like conspiracy theories are, but with the difference that they try to explain away the existence of all evil instead of explain everything in terms of an evil conspiracy. (Though I once read a conspiracy theorist who seemed to believe that both were fully universal truths at the same time). --ApooftGnegiol (talk) 22:19, 9 November 2023 (UTC)

I am coining it. I don't think I've ever seen it used outside of this draft before. And thank you. Feel free to contribute to this draft BTW. The only draft of mine that I am exclusively editing right now is the Melville Dewey one. Carthage (talk) 22:21, 9 November 2023 (UTC)
You can find the phrase used here in 2022[1] and here in 2000.[2] The latter article can be accessed on Jstor by creating a free account. Bongolian (talk) 08:24, 10 November 2023 (UTC)
Carthage added those as references, but the text didn't reflect their contents. I changed that, writing more. The first one is an American conservative cultural commentary that's actually sober and read-worthy, mentioning woo and excesses on the left, while the second one is a psychoanalytic work that (when weird jargon and text style is moved past) mentions how reactionary groups including MRAs reach for trauma to legitimize themselves and shift sympathy away from those who've recently gained it in part on account of their trauma. --ApooftGnegiol (talk) 01:19, 19 February 2024 (UTC)

Four term fallacy[edit]

Would this qualify as a four-term fallacy? I think there's an implicit third premise in there somewhere, but I'm experiencing too much brain fog right now to identify it. Carthage (talk) 03:45, 10 November 2023 (UTC)

I haven't quite formalized it yet, but here was my draft for a lede. I didn't save it yet because there was an edit conflict, and then I became unsure whether it fits your concept after reading the new. I think first we must get clear about what the basic concept is.

The appeal to trauma is an informal fallacy where actions are rationalized ex post facto by citing past abuse or traumas, real or not, experienced by the person or party in question. It can involve denying the possibility of other motivations, or even the making of deliberate choices –  in effect saying that whoever did whatever simply couldn't help it and was driven by the trauma or feelings arising from it. While it is possible for people to react and act blindly as a result of strongly conditioning emotional experiences, such a cause is often wrongly attributed, either manipulatively in order to explain away more unsavory behavior, or naively by people who hold doctrinaire views and regard baser motivations as impossible in healthy individuals.

Entirely depending on the system of ethics or type of morality under consideration, it may or may not be acceptable to strike back under any circumstances, for example according to the Old Testament rule of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". It is not in itself a fallacy to consider revenge justified. This is separate from the nature of attempts to circumvent unfavorable moral reasoning, which threatens to conclude that something is unjustified in the eyes of society, by being deceitful about motivations –  and likewise separate from the nature of "naive" thinking which arrives at the same result due to false beliefs about the nature of human behavior.

What you added so far maybe points in a somewhat different direction. Are you including attempts to hand-wave away laws by saying "circumstances were so bad that anything was justified"? That would simply seem like an appeal to emotion. Anyway, that's one of the things your examples bring to mind, but not necessarily all. By contrast, what I had in mind only fits international politics so directly if you have people reasoning by analogy and truly treating nations, governments, or organizations as if they had the psyches of individual humans. Sometimes that's done, but far from always, so it would need to be stated if it's the case. --ApooftGnegiol (talk) 04:39, 10 November 2023 (UTC)
@ApooftGnegiol I was thinking about the battered woman syndrome when I first came up with the idea, but it can equally fit international relations I think. People tend to subconsciously think of nation states as individual entities, so it's a psychological fallacy too. I added "person or group" to make it clear that the fallacy can be used to justify the actions of both individual parties and collectives, if that makes sense. I think we could add that the appeal to trauma can be generalized to apply to collectives of people, but can also be used to justify individual acts. I'm not a formal logician, however, so feel free to correct me on anything. Carthage (talk) 04:46, 10 November 2023 (UTC)