Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and rhetorician who lived nearly 2400 years ago, laid the groundwork for modern logic and argument. He divided proofs into two groups: inartistic proofs and artistic proofs. He further divided the artistic proofs into three groups: ethos, logos, and pathos appeals.
"Inartistic" here does not mean "stupid" or "clumsy." It means proofs that were not supplied by the writer's effort—quotations of what others have said. Inartistic proofs include contracts, testimony, witnesses, etc.
Some cultures value inartistic proofs very highly: If I quote Confucius or the Apostle Paul or Ronald Reagan (without inserting any of my own interpretation or commentary) to settle an issue, that's an inartistic proof.
(Interestingly enough, a patchwork quilt paper composed of quotations from half a dozen sources—and its dishonest brother the mosaic plagiarism paper—are examples of inartistic proofs.)
The university (and the larger culture) tend to value the artistic proofs more highly because they require critical thinking. It's worth pointing out that few speeches or academic papers are "pure"—most will combine all of the proofs below.
Ethos: the source's credibility, the speaker's/author's authority
This Greek word is the source for our English word "ethics," but the concept is much bigger. One of the writer's greatest tasks is to gain the trust of the reader. Whether I want you to vote for my candidate or to believe my theory about verb use, I need to:
A character attack (such as the infamous "Would you buy a used car from this man?" attack on Richard Nixon) is essentially an attack on ethos. The Nixon attack makes no mention of his economic policies, his foreign affairs policies, or even his honesty. It's all built on that snarky picture and a clever tagline.
Logos: the logic used to support a claim (induction and deduction); can also be the facts and statistics used to help support the argument.
This was Aristotle's favorite and tends to be the favorite of the university as well.
Logical Fallacies are examples of misuse (or misunderstanding) of a Logos argument:
Pathos: the emotional or motivational appeals; vivid language, emotional language and numerous sensory details.
(Our English word "pathetic" comes from this, but it's not too close to the Greek idea.)
The concept of "Audience Awareness" comes close to this one. Martin Luther King used this appeal all through his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. Near the end he says:
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest—quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering.
The Pathos appeal is not a license for the speaker/writer to vomit out his/her own emotions. When Rush Limbaugh is spewing his hatred of Barack Obama by telling lies about Obama's wife, he is not using the pathos appeal—unless you count the fact that many in his audience are also filled with hatred. Those of us who do not hate Obama are not moved by this childish display because our concerns and emotional needs are not being addressed.
If you choose to write a paper filled with uncontrolled emotion, you are not using the pathos appeal; you are simply losing control and having a tantrum.
YOUR emotions can carry you away from the truth. The Sarah Palin photo is a play on a quotation attributed to Sinclair Lewis:
"When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Lewis didn't actually say that, though it sounds like something he might have liked. And the original of the Palin photo didn't have the cross—that was photoshopped in. So we can form a few rules:
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Revised 1/18/21 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: email@example.com.