Aristotelian Approach to Rhetoric
Basically, every argument persuades on the basis of three elements:
Some arguments rely more on one than another. As you read the following, consider, not only how the arguments we are reading in class use ethos, logos, and pathos, but the extent to which you rely on these in your own arguing, written and otherwise. Think of the sermon you heard this Sunday in church: which of these persuasive tools did your pastor use?
This is the credibility and authority of the speaker or arguer. For example, we might be persuaded by a pastor because he is famous, or because she has a Ph.D. Aristotle says that three elements, “inspire confidence in the rhetor’s (arguer’s) own character – the three, namely, that induce us to believe a thing apart from any proof of it: good sense, good moral character, and goodwill” (Henning). This is the essence of ethos: we won’t be persuaded by an arguer we don’t trust, or can’t come to trust through the argument. There are two kinds of ethos:
Extrinsic: that which comes from outside what you have to say. For example, if Tommy Lasorda speaks on baseball, we are inclined to accept his opinion because of his extensive experience and reputation (unless, of course, you’re a Giants or Yankees fan; if that’s the case, you have our prayers).
Intrinsic: that which comes from within what you say. For example, an ordinary person – an elementary school teacher, for example – might speak on baseball. Although she or he has no apparent expertise, as the teacher speaks, reciting statistics, referring to historical teams, and explaining obscure rules, it becomes clear that we are dealing with an individual with extensive knowledge of the sport. Thus intrinsic ethos is established (Williams).
How do you establish ethos? Most undergraduate students have yet to accrue a great deal of extrinsic ethos. However, any writer can develop intrinsic ethos by writing carefully:
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