Rhetoric is a communication technique that uses persuasion to convince, inform, or motivate others. It’s used in many fields, including politics, law, and public speaking.
Rhetoric can be broken down into three main strategies: ethos, logos, and pathos. Understanding these strategies can help you create more compelling arguments.
Speakers often rely on ethos when speaking or writing to establish credibility and share values with their audience. Ethos means convincing the audience that you have good character and that your words are trustworthy.
Ethos can be established through credentials, such as having a degree or experience in a particular subject. It can also be found through your values, such as a commitment to a specific cause.
Politicians, activists, and advertisers use ethos to win over their audiences. They know that the only way to convince their audiences is by making them believe in their credibility, morality, and authority.
Ethos is one of three classical appeals for persuasion, along with logos and pathos. These appeals are sometimes referred to as the rhetorical triangle, and they are all rooted in the ideas of Aristotle.
Logos, a Greek term translated as “reason” or “word,” is an integral part of rhetoric. It refers to the idea that a universal, divine reason works in all things.
In the Christian gospel of John, Jesus Christ is referred to as the incarnate Logos. Greek philosophy also uses this word to describe a universal, divine mind that created and interpreted the world.
Logos is one of the three primary modes of persuasion in classical rhetoric. It is the most rational and logical of the three and uses reasoning to make its point.
Pathos is one of the primary tools of persuasion, alongside ethos and logos. It relies on the audience’s emotions to sway their opinion.
Politicians and activists use pathos to sway the public’s feelings and to persuade them to support a policy or platform. For example, a politician may tell a story of a struggling single parent to evoke sympathy from the public.
Aristotle explains that pathos appeals to the audience’s emotions, such as pleasure or pain. However, he stresses that it is essential to know the context and social situation of the audience to utilize pathos in an argument.
It’s important to note that a speaker who uses an overly emotional approach will lose credibility as an academic. Therefore, it is best to use pathos as one of three primary tools of persuasion in tandem with ethos and logos.
Heuristics are mental shortcuts that allow humans, animals, and machines to form judgments and make decisions quickly. They only sometimes lead to the most accurate and complete answers. Still, they are a practical solution for situations with too much information and insufficient time to consider everything at once.
Rhetoric can use heuristics to demonstrate a point by showing examples and how certain aspects of a situation play into the argument’s outcome. For example, you might use rough monetary calculations to support your opinion about the value of an overnight campus shuttle service, then discuss how these numbers compare with the percentage of the university’s operating budget it would require.
Heuristics are helpful in many situations but can lead to biases. Research has shown that heuristics can influence our emotions, so they can be dangerous for people trying to avoid making decisions based on emotion.