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The Differences Among Logos, Ethos, and Pathos and Their Uses for the Research Presentation

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Persuasive speaking is a skill that you can apply regularly throughout your life, whether you are selling a product or being interviewed. 2,300 years ago, Aristotle determined the components needed for persuasive speaking. Ethos is Greek for "character" and "ethic" is derived from ethos. Ethos consists of convincing your audience that you have good character and you are credible therefore your words can be trusted. Ethos must be established from the start of your talk or the audience will not accept what you say. In fact, ethos is often established before your presentation, for example, you may be the CEO of the company you're presenting to so you're already perceived as a specialist.

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Rhetoric, as the previous chapters have discussed, is the way that authors use and manipulate language in order to persuade an audience. Once we understand the rhetorical situation out of which a text is created (why it was written, for whom it was written, by whom it was written, how the medium in which it was written creates certain constraints, or perhaps freedoms of expression), we can look at how all of those contextual elements shape the author’s creation of the text. We can look first at the classical rhetorical appeals, which are the three ways to classify authors’ intellectual, moral, and emotional approaches to getting the audience to have the reaction that the author hopes for. Rhetorical appeals refer to ethos, pathos, and logos. These are classical Greek terms, dating back to Aristotle, who is traditionally seen as the father of rhetoric. To be rhetorically effective (and thus persuasive), an author must engage the audience in a variety of compelling ways, which involves carefully choosing how to craft his or her argument so that the outcome, audience agreement with the argument or point, is achieved. Aristotle defined these modes of engagement and gave them the terms that we still use today: logos, pathos, and ethos. When an author relies on pathos, it means that he or she is trying to tap into the audience’s emotions to get them to agree with the author’s claim. An author using pathetic appeals wants the audience to feel something: anger, pride, joy, rage, or happiness. For example, many of us have seen the ASPCA commercials that use photographs of injured puppies, or sad-looking kittens, and slow, depressing music to emotionally persuade their audience to donate money.On the one hand, when an author makes an ethical appeal, he or she is attempting to tap into the values or ideologies that the audience holds, for example, patriotism, tradition, justice, equality, dignity for all humankind, self preservation, or other specific social, religious or philosophical values (Christian values, socialism, capitalism, feminism, etc.). These values can sometimes feel very close to emotions, but they are felt on a social level rather than only on a personal level

When an author evokes the values that the audience cares about as a way to justify or support his or her argument, we classify that as ethos. The audience will feel that the author is making an argument that is “right” (in the sense of moral “right”-ness, i.e., “My argument rests upon that values that matter to you. Therefore, you should accept my argument”). This first part of the definition of ethos, then, is focused on the audience’s values.

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Documentary creators did not have any hard evidence, as to the fact that the representatives of Tyson Corporation were applying any pressure on Vince, to make him decline the journalists’ request to film inside of his chicken-farm (Connors, Robert, 1979)

Yet, as the above-screenshots imply, this was the actual case – by encouraging viewers to consider that there was indeed a connection between the visits of Tyson’s representatives and the Vince’s sudden ‘change of heart,’ filmmakers succeeded in ensuring the soundness of their subtle allegation of Tyson Corporation being involved in semi-criminal scheming against farmers. Another example of how the ‘appeal to ethos’ technique is being used in the documentary, is the scene in which one of the interviewed farmers talks about the actual realities of the American justice system’s functioning: “Lady Justice has the scales. The one who puts more cash on the scales… wins” (01.15.04). It is understood, of course, that this statement was meant to appeal to the viewers’ deep-seated mistrust towards the country’s state-institutions, as such that are being affected by corruption. This is because people tend to assume that the statements, which correlate with what happened to be the essence of their unconscious anxieties, are true by definition (Lamb 109). Nevertheless, even though that there can be only a few doubts, as to the documentary’s rhetorical effectiveness, it would be entirely inappropriate to suggest that there are no discursive drawbacks to how film creators argue their case. For example, one of the main ideas, promoted by the film, is that there are objective prerequisites for the current dynamics in America’s food-market to be what they are – specifically, the fact that, as time goes on, the gap between the poor and the rich in this country continues to widen. Moreover, the number of impoverished people keeps on growing rather drastically, which in turn implies that the food-producers specifically can provide consumers with particularly cheap food-items, which should be seen as the foremost precondition for them to remain commercially competitive: “To eat well in this country costs money… and some people don’t have it” (01.27.32). Therefore, there is very little sense in the documentary’s concluding remark: “People have to start demanding good wholesome food” (1.29.19). Those that have the means do not need to ‘demand’ organic food – they just buy it. Alternatively, regardless of how strongly poor people would be willing to ‘demand’ healthy foods, they will still not going to get any, simply because they cannot afford it – pure and simple. Therefore, I cannot say that the film did convince me to start ‘thinking organic.’

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To summarize, Aristotle believed that logos should be the most important of the three persuasive appeals

As a philosopher and a master of logical reasoning, he believed that logos should be the only required persuasive appeal. That is, if you demonstrated logos, you should not need either ethos or pathos. However, Aristotle stated that logos alone is not sufficient. Not only is it not sufficient on its own, but it is no more important than either of the two other pillars. He argued that all three persuasive appeals are necessary.

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Connors, Robert. “The Differences between Speech and Writing: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.” College Composition and Communication 30.3 (1979): 285-290. Print.

Freund47.“Food, Inc.” Online video clip. Veoh. 2012. Web.

Lamb, Brenda. “Rhetoric.” English Journal 87.1(1998): 108-109. Print.

Micheli, Raphaël. “Emotions as Objects of Argumentative Constructions”. Argumentation 24. 1 (2010): 1-17. Print.

Oring, Elliott. “Legendry and the Rhetoric of Truth.” Journal of American Folklore 121.480 (2008): 127-166. Print.

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