In Neil Postman’s novel, Amusing Ourselves to Death, he argues that rationality in America has become dictated by television. Through the use of ethos, pathos, and logos, Postman demonstrates that his claim is valid and reliable. These are three forms of persuasion that are used to influence others to agree with a particular point of view. Ethos, or ethical appeal, is used to build an author’s image. Ethos establishes a sense of credibility and good character for the author (Henning). Pathos, or emotional appeal, involves engaging “an audience's sense of identity, their self-interest, their emotions” (Henning). If done correctly, the power of emotions can allow the reader to be swayed to agree with the author. Logos, or logical appeal, is the use of “formal logic and scientific reasoning” (Edlund & Pomona). Logos provides pellucidity to the claim and effectiveness of its fortifying evidence. Every claim has a call to action and Postman uses rhetorical persuasion to encourage a movement that takes place on behalf of his claim. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman applies these various appeals to prove how television affects society’s ability to properly receive information. Postman provides proper illustration of both ethos and pathos in Amusing Ourselves to Death. These appeals support that television learning opposes aspects of traditional education. In chapter ten of Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman references John Dewy. Postman uses ethos when citing the American philosopher to establish credibility for his argument. Dewy reasons that the most fundamental thing one learns is continually something about how one learns (144). Postman uses this to support that, “Television educates by teaching children to do what television-viewing requires of them. And that is precisely remote from what a classroom requires of them as reading a book is from watching a stage show” (144). Postman uses ethos to establish trustworthiness by using Dewy as a source. He allows the reader to believe his accusations are credible to prove that televised learning is irrelevant to what is expected in a classroom. Postman additionally uses pathos to relate how “this style of leaning is, by its nature, hostile to what has been called book-learning or its hand maiden, school learning” (144). He argues that this method of learning influences children to love education only if it is presented in a similar form. According to Postman, “the classroom now begins to seem a stale and flat environment for learning” (143). This quote demonstrates Postman’s ability to argue his point through pathos. This appeal allows for the audience to associate with the point Postman is addressing. He engages the readers’ emotions by targeting how classrooms are perceived. He shows that students have become influenced to believe that anything worth learning can only be achieved through the means of entertainment. This use of pathos enables the audience to acknowledge the pitfalls of television. Ethos and pathos are used as beneficial persuading devices in Amusing Ourselves to Death. Ethos and pathos are clearly used as effective methods of persuasion, however, they are not the dominate device used by Postman. Logos is the prominent force Postman uses to influence his argument. Logos is not only utilized most frequently by Postman, but should be the most important of the three appeals, according to the philosopher Aristotle, who founded the three forms of persuasion (Dlugan). According to Dlugan, “As a philosopher and a master of logical reasoning, [Aristotle] believed that logos should be the only required persuasive appeal. That is, if you demonstrated logos, you should not need either ethos or pathos.” Aristotle suggest that logos is able to offer what ethos and pathos cannot. Logos is presented as a form of logic and offers the most relatable method of communication to an audience, as it is so commonly used. Since Aristotle can be the most authoritative on the three...
Cited: Edlund, John R., Dr., and Cal P. Pomona. “Ethos, Logos, Pathos; Three Ways to Persuade.”
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