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Logos, Pathos, and Ethos

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Aristotle divided arguments into three categories - Logos, Pathos, and Ethos. Below, each category will be defined. 1


While well-formed arguments may use all three, Aristotle wanted all arguments to be formed through Logos, but acknowledged that the other two categories would have to be used for persuasive argument. Logos is an appeal to reason, which means that it appeals strictly to facts and logical arguments(more on logical arguments in Weeks 6 and 8). While Logos arguments can be found everywhere, they are common in academic papers and legal proceedings. 1

Examples of Logos arguments:

What remains unclear is the sustainability of the flat tax. Structurally, the flat taxes that have been adopted do not provide a coherent framework for dealing with the difficulties that almost all countries now perceive in taxing internationally mobile capital income. 2
Rational choice theory in political science has made much of the fact that it is seemingly irrational to vote in a large-scale election. This is because the probability that your single vote will determine the outcome is generally very close to zero, while the act of voting entails some small but real costs. Even in a close election like Florida in 2000, an individual’s vote would really “count” only if the margin of victory was exactly one vote. 3
Q: If a woman is pregnant and smokes marijuana, will it hurt the baby?

A: Doctors advise pregnant women not to use any drugs because they could harm the growing fetus. Although one animal study has linked marijuana use to loss of the fetus very early in pregnancy, two studies in humans found no association between marijuana use and early pregnancy loss. More research is necessary to fully understand the effects of marijuana use on pregnancy outcome. 4

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Aristotle divided the pathos into many subcategories; however, for this lesson you will only need to know the definition of pathos. Pathos is an appeal to emotion. These appeals can take a variety of form including anger, humor, pity or joy. Arguments using pathos must be very careful not to use too much, otherwise the appeal to logos can suffer and the listener/reader may feel manipulated. Cicero, a famous Roman orator, encouraged pathos to be used at the end of an argument, although appeals to pathos can found be found anywhere within an argument or compose the entire argument. Pathos can be commonly found in personal writing(journals, blogs, letters, e-mails, etc.), political speeches, propaganda and letters-to-the-editor. 12

Examples of Pathos:

...Marcotte is a special breed of crazy: a paranoid misandrist with a persecution complex and a broken moral compass. John Edwards must be thanking his lucky stars that this poor disturbed woman quit and skulked away before her extremist statements completely destroyed his already Quixotic campaign. 5
Is Bush an idiot? Is that even debatable? But it IS nice to see the mainstream FINALLY help point it out to those who have had blinders on for the last five years. Fox "News" and Lush Bimbo are probably having strokes over this...Perhaps the sheeple are waking up, but is it too late? 6
Seems clear to me that Cindy Sheehan is a bold faced liar. She lied about the legitimacy of her son's enlistment, lied about meeting the President, and lied about her family's solidarity for her cause. This is a kodak moment in her life and where is her family? Her daughter's fled overseas, lone surviving son is a thousand miles away and her husband made the obvious decision to get away from his wife's histrionics. 7

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Ethos is an appeal to a person's character, especially the speaker's or writer's. Aristotle believed that it was important that the person arguing appears knowledgeable and credible. Cicero recommended establishing credibility in the initial portion of a speech(which can also apply to writing). Ethos can be found in many situations such as political speeches, and is often used in situations in which the writer/speaker isn't well known by the audience. Ethos is especially important in academic writing, although they may or may not list their credibility within their argument. 13

Examples of Ethos:

David Hofmann of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), which published the figures, said: "Over this last decade the growth rates in carbon dioxide have been higher. I don't think we can plausibly say what's causing it. It's something we're going to look at." Peter Cox, a climate change expert at Exeter University, said: "The concern is that climate change itself will affect the ability of the land to absorb our emissions." 8
I live in India and I am a proud firearm owner - but I am the exception not the norm, an odd situation in a country with a proud martial heritage and a long history of firearm innovation. This is not because the people of India are averse to gun ownership, but instead due to Draconian anti-gun legislation going back to colonial times.
To trace the roots of India's anti-gun legislation we need to step back to the latter half of the 19th century... 9
Karen Hilsendager, of Philomath, Ore., said she found herself struggling with her doubts about the war and what they meant for the death of her son, Specialist Eric S. McKinley, who was killed in June. Ms. Hilsendager said she was irked by a comment people often made about her son. "They tell me: 'Thank you so much for his service. He's a hero,' " she said. "And I want to say back, 'He's not a hero, he's a victim.' " 10
"As an African American child growing up in America, I had to learn about my heritage by myself. Today I can help children grow up aware of the contributions African Americans have made to the development of our great country," said Robert Kersey, creator of the Black Heritage Trivia game. 11

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  1. Logos by Silva Rhetoricae
  2. Slovenia Says No to Flat Tax
  3. Incentives for Political Office
  4. What Does Marijuana Do to the Brain?
  5. Abortion as a Moral Good?
  6. Is Bush an Idiot?
  7. Cindy Sheehan: Declares the Family as Off-Limits
  8. Runaway Global Warming: Is This What It Looks Like?
  9. Gun Ownership in India
  10. The Power of Mothers!!!!
  11. Bringing African American History into America's Homes and Schools: How One Entrepreneurial Business Takes on the Challenge
  12. Pathos by Silva Rhetoricae
  13. Ethos by Silva Rhetoricae

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Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . tomcas. (2008, May 19). Logos, Pathos, and Ethos. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License