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Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

Whenever you read an argument, you must ask yourself, “Is this persuasive? And if so, to whom?” There are several ways to appeal to an audience. Among them are appealing to logos, ethos, and pathos. These appeals are prevalent in almost all argument.

Definitions

Logos: The Greek word “logos” is the basis for the English word “logic.” Logos is a broader idea than formal logic—the highly symbolic and mathematical logic that you might study in a philosophy course. Logos refers to any attempt to appeal to the intellect, the general meaning of “logical argument.” Everyday arguments rely heavily on ethos and pathos, but academic arguments rely more on logos. Yes, these arguments will call upon the writers’ credibility and try to touch the audiences’ emotions, but there will more often that not be logical chains of reasoning supporting all claims.

Ethos: Ethos is related to the English word “ethics” and refers to the trustworthiness of the speaker/writer. Ethos is an effective, persuasive strategy because when we believe that the speaker does not intend to do us harm, we are more willing to listen to what he/she has to say. For example, when a trusted doctor gives you advice, you may not understand all of the medical reasoning behind the advice, but you nonetheless follow the directions because you believe that the doctor knows what he/she is talking about. Likewise, when a judge comments on legal precedent, audiences tend to listen because it is the job of a judge to know the nature of past legal cases.

Pathos: Pathos is related to words “pathetic,” “sympathy,” and “empathy.” Whenever you accept a claim based on how it makes you feel without fully analyzing the rationale behind the claim, you are acting on pathos. They may be any emotions: love, fear, patriotism, guilt, hate or joy. A majority of arguments in the popular press are heavily dependent on pathetic appeals. The more people react without full consideration for the WHY, the more effective a argument can be. Although the pathetic appeal can be manipulative, it is the cornerstone of moving people to action. Many arguments are able to persuade people logically, but the apathetic audience may not follow through on the call to action. Appeals to pathos touch a nerve and compel people to not only listen, but to also take the next step and act in the world.

Effective writing and argumentation thus depends on the inclusion of appeals to logos, ethos, and pathos. Balancing these three appeals in your writing contributes to a stronger, more persuasive argument.

|To Appeal to Logic |To Develop Ethos |To Appeal to Emotion (Pathos) | |(Logos) | | | |Theoretical, abstract language |Language appropriate to audience and subject |Vivid, concrete language | |Denotative meanings/reasons |Restrained, sincere, fair-minded presentation |Emotionally loaded language | |Literal and historical analogies |Appropriate level of vocabulary |Connotative meanings | |Definitions |Correct grammar |Emotional examples | |Factual data and statistics | |Vivid descriptions | |Quotations | |Narratives of emotional events | |Citations from experts and authorities | |Emotional tone | |Informed opinions |...
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