Aristotle coined logos, ethos and pathos as the three pillars of rhetoric. Today, it is used as the three persuasive appeals -- distinct ways to successfully convince an audience that a particular stance, belief or conclusion is correct. The three are different from each other in their respective methods of convincing an audience. For aspiring speakers and writers however, it is important to master all three to effectively engage their future audience.
The Greek word “logos” means “word,” “speech” or “reason.” In persuasion, it is the logical reasoning behind the author’s statements. Reasoning can come in two forms: deductive or inductive. Deductive reasoning argues that, “If statement A is true and statement B is true, then the cross between A and B must also be true.” For example, the logos of the argument “women like oranges” would be “women like all fruits” and “oranges are fruits.” Inductive reasoning also uses premises, but the conclusion is only expected and may not necessarily be true because of its subjective nature. For example, the statements, “Steve likes comedy” and “This movie is a comedy” can reasonably conclude that “Steve will like this movie.”
Ethos comes from the word “ethikos” which means “moral” and “showing moral character.” For speakers and writers, their ethos is made from their credibility, presentation and similarity to their audience. It is not enough to have logical reasons to create an effective argument; the content must also be presented well by a trustworthy source to become believable. Ethos is particularly important to keep audience interest as well. For example, talking to the audience as equals rather than listeners can invite the audience to more actively listen and relate to your arguments.
Pathos traditionally means “suffering” and “experience.” In rhetoric, this translates to the speaker or writer’s ability to evoke emotions and feelings from the audience. This is vital for highly controversial arguments. Because these problems have no clear logical answer, the success of the argument lies on the ability of the author to have the audience empathize with her. For example, in an argument to legally ban abortion, the author could use vivid words to describe babies and the innocence of new life to evoke sadness and care from the audience.
Logos, ethos and pathos are traditional academic elements behind reasoning. These are used in discussing most persuasive essays and are the center of strategy for debate teams. People who master these skills can work in careers in psychology and public speaking. These fields involve the person’s ability to convince people to take action or buy into a product or service.
- Patrick Ryan/Lifesize/Getty Images