Pathos i Praksis – en retorisk og etisk caseundersøgelse af Læger uden Grænsers Gode intentioner redder ikke liv: Pathos in Praxis – a rhetorical and ethical case study of Doctors Without Borders' Good Intentions Don't Save Lives

Christian Adam Otholm

Studenteropgave: Speciale


In 2013 Doctors without Borders (Médicins sans Frontières, or MSF) launched a video-campaign in Denmark called Good Intentions Don’t Save Lives (Gode intentioner redder ikke liv). The campaign consisted of four commercials, which were shown on national TV, in cinemas and uploaded on YouTube to be distributed on social media. The purpose of the campaign was to motivate their target audience – people who had in some way acknowledge their support of MSF, but had not acted on it – to follow up their words and ‘likes’ on Facebook with actual donations. The video strongly appeals to the audiences’ emotions, in particular compassion and guilty. The audience was encouraged to feel compassion with the suffering people MSF provide medical help for, and guilty over claiming that they support MSF when they do not, in fact, donate. This thesis seeks to investigate how MSF used rhetorical appeals to emotion, pathos, in order to persuade their audience, and which ethical concerns might arise from appealing to their emotions. It is argued that emotions have cognitive components, and that pathos appeals might best be understood as a type of framing wherein certain aspects of a person, action, situation, or other objects are highlighted, imbued with salience, and amplified in order to stir particular emotions. This is done using rhetorical figures, examples and other rhetorical devices pertaining to pathos that illustrate the situation, amplify the importance of MSF’s cause and makes the audience identify and emphasis with the patients. The ethical concerns that arise from this are discussed from the perspective of three of the dominant ethical normative theories: deontology, utilitarianism and virtue ethics. Each theory does not universally endorse MSF’s approach, or appeals to pathos in general, however only deontology prohibits MSF’s appeals to guilt and compassion. The predominant criticism is that MSF’s appeals to emotions rely on urgency and do not fully encourage the audience to reflect and consider whether or not they ought to follow their immediate intuitions and donate to MSF. It is concluded that while MSF, and other charity organizations that might employ appeals to pathos, need to, from an ethical standpoint, consider how they use this instrument, it is not prohibited and might in fact be morally required in order to minimize suffering and act virtuously.

UddannelserFilosofi og Videnskabsteori, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) KandidatKommunikation, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato24 nov. 2014
VejledereJonas Gabrielsen


  • Etik
  • Martha Nussbaum
  • Doctors without Borders
  • Ethics
  • Deontology
  • Læger uden Grænser
  • Utilitarianism
  • Pathos
  • Retorik
  • Virtue Ethics
  • Aristoteles
  • Rhetorics