Aristotle’s three appeals – logos, pathos, and ethos – are effective tools in the rhetorical framework, or the art of persuasion. Using all three as part of a rhetorical strategy, in fact, is one of the most effective methods of persuading others, and as a result, changing how others view reality.
Many people, however, have elevated the appeal to logic, or logos, over the other two, despite Aristotle’s belief that ethos is the most effective of the three. The emergence of contemporary brain research, however, demonstrates that emotion (pathos) is the primary driver of thinking and behavior. As such, strategies may need to change regarding the method communicators use to effectively lead others, persuade others and motivate them to action.
In this first post, let’s look at a brief summary of Aristotle’s appeals.
Considered one of the most important people in the development of Western philosophy, Aristotle developed one of, if not the most important works on persuasion ever written. In it he defined rhetoric as “the art to see or identify in any given circumstance the available means of persuasion” (as cited in Smith, p. 67). According to Aristotle, persuasion is made up of three appeals: logos, pathos, and ethos. Each of these three rhetorical appeals can, or at least should, be found in any persuasive process.
Logos, as used by Aristotle, attempts to persuade using rational arguments. When a communicator employs statistics, what they deem to be credible sources, or reasoned arguments, they are utilizing logos in their persuasion (Wright, n.d., para 6).
When a communicator uses pathos as a persuasive strategy, they are making an emotional appeal. When the rhetorician appeals to the needs, values, or emotions of an audience, this constitutes an argument based on pathos (Wright, para. 7).
Ethos references the character or credibility of the communicator. Ethos is conveyed through reputation, credentials, tone, or style. Seeking to establish the trustworthiness, expertise and …read more
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