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Aristotelian Appeals: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

What they are, how they function in a text, and why they are so darn snazzy.
by

Katie Hoffman

on 12 April 2013

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Transcript of Aristotelian Appeals: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

Aristotelian Appeals The Greek philosopher Aristotle determined that in any persuasive message, there are three methods used by the author or speaker. He called them Logos, Ethos, and Pathos; we commonly refer to them now as the "appeals." They are called "appeals" because they function as an author's appeal to her/his audience. The word "appeal" means an urgent request or plea, so that certainly makes sense in the context of an author trying to persuade her/his audience, right? But we also know that something can be considered "appealing," which means attractive or pleasing. Similarly, you want to approach your issue and reason with your audience in a way that is most appealing to them so different appeals are used in different situations as is determined most effective for your audience and purpose. When an author uses a logos appeal, it will consist of inductive or deductive reasoning and evidence like facts, studies, and statistics. Logos:
An appeal to your audience's logic and reason Start with general knowledge to ascertain a more specific conclusion. It helps to think about math - to reduce is to go from a bigger number to a smaller number (and now think to deduce means to go from general conclusions to specific). So this way of thinking takes a general truth and applies it logically to a specific instance. Deductive Reasoning Inductive Reasoning Start with specific examples or cases and draw a broader conclusion or rule. Sometimes inductive reasoning comes from our senses - from observations and experiences. An example of Logos from a text: Nicholas Carr, in "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" argues that Internet users are reading differently online which is leading to changes in the way they think.
He begins his article by referencing his personal observations of his own reading habits changing. He then provides examples from other writers who have noticed the same thing after reading online regularly, Next, he provides a study from University College London which shows people reading online show more "skimming" activity than traditional readers do.
Need a refresher on this article? See the first 8 paragraphs here to see Logos at work!: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/6868/ Logos is kind of a big deal. Logos is considered the strongest of the appeals - by philosophers, by speakers, and by Aristotle himself.
Logos requires more than just plugging in facts but instead demonstrates quality thinking processes that are supported with sound evidence,.
By using appeals to reason, you are more likely to succeed in persuading your audience to reconsider a viewpoint or action than you would be by the other two appeals alone. This is the primary appeal you will want to use in
your own arguments - especially when you have
an educated audience. Critical thinkers would find
strong logic and evidence the most appealing
and thus, the most persuasive. Does Sherlock Holmes illustrate deductive or inductive logic in this clip? Ethos is the appeal to character or ethics. The author employs ethos to show her/his audience that she/he is credible, ethical, and trustworthy. An author would demonstrate ethos by showing understanding of the audience's viewpoints, revealing the credibility of her/his sources, by treating opposing views fairly, by employing an appropriate tone, by using Rogerian methods, and by illustrating her/his own background or investment in the issue. Ethos: appeal to character How does this spokesperson establish ethos for her audience? How effective do you think her ethos would be for her intended audience? Example from an article: Nicholas Carr, as we mentioned earlier, brings up a study about Internet users engaging in more skimming activity. Let's see how he establishes ethos in the way he introduces the study to show it is credible evidence for his point: "But a recently published study of online research habits, conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think. As part of the five-year research program, the scholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information." Note how he mentions the study is recent, identifies the University that conducted it, refers to the researchers as "scholars", and adds that this was a five-year research program. How do those details add ethos to this piece of evidence? Ethos: It's about building trust & credibility Ethos is important because it comes down to the relationship you create with your reader.
Your audience will want to feel that you are honest (avoid logical fallacies), that you have integrity (will listen to their viewpoints fairly), that you share some of the values that they do (identify common ground), that you are respectful (address their concerns), and that you truly care about the issue (you aren't out to "win" the argument, but want to make positive change regarding the issue). Thus, ethos has a lot to do with how you infuse your own personality, compassion, and respect into your message and how well you attend to your audience. Pathos is about the author connecting with her/his audience on a personal and emotional level. Authors may do this by describing scenarios or sharing personal experiences that trigger certain emotional responses, by selecting words that have certain emotional connotations, and/or by creating associations between feelings and the issue. Pathos: An appeal to emotion Example from an article: Nicholas Carr opened his essay with the scene from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. He concludes his essay by reflecting on it: "I’m haunted by that scene in 2001. What makes it so poignant, and so weird, is the computer’s emotional response to the disassembly of its mind: its despair as one circuit after another goes dark, its childlike pleading with the astronaut—“I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m afraid”—and its final reversion to what can only be called a state of innocence. HAL’s outpouring of feeling contrasts with the emotionlessness that characterizes the human figures in the film, who go about their business with an almost robotic efficiency. Their thoughts and actions feel scripted, as if they’re following the steps of an algorithm. In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence." Given the tone Carr uses and the word choice as he describes the scene, what emotions does he convey? Pathos: A tricky little bugger Pathos may be used in your message to create an emotional link between your audience and you, or between your audience and the issue. You may want to try to appeal for them to feel a certain passion or personal connection to the issue or to sympathize with your view. This can be done well, however, over-reliance on pathos appeals can result in a weak argument. If the entire reason your audience should consider your stance is based on emotions, you are likely ignoring logos and ethos - the two stronger appeals. Does this commercial use pathos effectively in conjunction with other appeals, or does it rely too heavily on pathos? Are you persuaded by the message based on the appeals? Why or why not? Concluding Thoughts: As you can see, all of the appeals exist in relationship between you and your audience. Thus, you must choose your appeals with your audience in mind. By consciously incorporating the strongest appeals in ways that are appropriate for your audience, your overall persuasion will be more effective and you'll be a successful rhetorician! Additional Resources: http://pathosethoslogos.com/ http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/588/04/ Ethos also has a lot to do with your evidence and writing quality. If you choose to use several weak sources, don't introduce your author tags well, lack citing skills, or have lots of misspellings & grammar errors, your audience may start to question your understanding of the issue, the strength of your overall support, if you put much effort forth, and whether they should really take you seriously. Thus, your ethos can be called into question not only by your tone, but also by your supporting evidence and editing. Ethos and logos work well together as through sound reasoning and strong evidence (logos), you show yourself to by a more credible persuader (ethos). You may choose to incorporate a personal experience, vivid language, or appeal to your audience's senses but beware trying to manipulate them by simply playing with their heart. Instead, persuade their minds through quality ethos and logos. Additionally, when you see arguments (whether they are commercials, movies, or articles - like we've seen in this presentation) and you look for the author's use of appeals, you will be able to better determine whether the author is using sound logos, establishing ethos, and using pathos effectively...or if she/he has created a weak argument. Thus, you'll be able to spot and identify the flaws in other's arguments much better and make smarter decisions about your own viewpoints. You won't fall prey to shabby argumentation! The end. For example, imagine you are learning to play guitar. You notice that after one hour of playing, your fingers begin to hurt. This happens every time you practice. Then you talk to two other friends who also play guitar and they tell you their fingers hurt after one hour of practice. You conclude that it is likely a general rule that all guitar players' fingers hurt after an hour of practice based on the specific instances you have observed. For example, a general premise may be that a student will do better on a test after a good night's sleep. The specific conclusion you may draw from this general premise is that you should get a good night's sleep before your next exam. "But a recently published study of online research habits, conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think. As part of the five-year research program, the scholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information." "I’m haunted by that scene in 2001. What makes it so poignant, and so weird, is the computer’s emotional response to the disassembly of its mind: its despair as one circuit after another goes dark, its childlike pleading with the astronaut—“I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m afraid”—and its final reversion to what can only be called a state of innocence. HAL’s outpouring of feeling contrasts with the emotionlessness that characterizes the human figures in the film, who go about their business with an almost robotic efficiency. Their thoughts and actions feel scripted, as if they’re following the steps of an algorithm. In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence."
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