Modes of Persuasion

Pathos (pronounced /ˈpeɪːθɒs/) (Greek: πάθος) is one of the three modes of persuasion in rhetoric (along with ethos and logos). Pathos appeals to the audience’s emotions. It is a part of Aristotle’s philosophies in rhetoric. Not to be confused with ‘bathos’ (βάθος) which is an attempt to perform in a serious, dramatic fashion that fails and ends up becoming comedy.

Pathetic events in a plot are also not to be confused with tragic events. In a tragedy, the character brings about his or her own demise, whereas those invoking pathos often occur to innocent characters, invoking unmerited grief.

Emotional appeal can be accomplished in a multitude of ways:

  • by a metaphor or story telling, common as a hook,
  • by a general passion in the delivery and an overall amount of emotional items in the text of the speech, or in writing.

For example, in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy persuades Elizabeth to reconsider her disposition of him through pathos in his letter when he informs her of Mr. Wickham’s offenses.

Logos (pronounced /ˈləʊːgɒs/) (Greek λόγος, pronounced /ˈlɔγɒs/, logos) is an important term in philosophy, analytical psychology, rhetoric and religion.

Heraclitus established the term in Western philosophy as meaning both the source and fundamental order of the cosmos. The sophists used the term to mean discourse, and Aristotle applied the term to rational discourse. The Stoic philosophers identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading the universe. After Judaism came under Hellenistic influence, Philo adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. The Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the incarnation of the Logos, through which all things are made. The gospel further identifies the Logos as divine (theos).[1] Second-century Christian Apologists, such as Justin Martyr, identified Jesus as the Logos or Word of God, a distinct intermediary between God and the world.[2]

In current use, Logos usually refers to the Christian sense, identifying Jesus with the Word of God.

Ethos (pronounced /ˈiːθɒs/) (ἦθος, ἔθος, plurals: ethe (ἤθη), ethea (ἤθεα)) is a Greek word originally meaning “accustomed place” (as in ἤθεα ἵππων “the habitat of horses”, Il. 6.511), “custom, habit”, that can be translated into English in different ways. Some possibilities are ‘starting point’, ‘to appear’, ‘disposition’ and from there, ‘character’.

Ethos forms the root of ethikos (ἠθικός), meaning “moral, showing moral character”. To the Greeks ancient and modern, the meaning is simply “the state of being”, the inner source, the soul, the mind, and the original essence, that shapes and forms a person or animal1. Late Latin borrowed it as ethicus, the feminine of which (ethica, for ἠθική φιλοσοφία “moral philosophy”) is the origin of the modern English word ethics.

In rhetoric, ethos is one of the three artistic proofs (pistis (πίστις)) modes of persuasion (other principles being logos and pathos) discussed by Aristotle in ‘Rhetoric’ as a component of argument. At first speakers must establish ethos. On the one hand, this can mean merely “moral competence”, but Aristotle broadens this word to encompass expertise and knowledge. He expressly remarks that ethos should be achieved only by what the speaker says, not by what people think of his character before he begins to speak. This position is often disputed and other writers on rhetoric state that ethos is connected to the overall moral character and history of the speaker. (cf Isocrates).

Modes of Persuasion

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