Conspiracy Theory
PWR 1 Fall Quarter 2008
Jonah G. Willihnganz
Stanford University


The Rhetorical Appeals

Aristotle (and others) suggested that all means of persuasion could be divided into three categories: ethos, pathos, and logos. He called these "appeals" in the sense that a speaker or author is asking the audience to believe him/her because of the logic of the case, the way the case makes one feel, or the character/authority of those who make the case.

The Appeal to Logos (Greek for 'word') refers to an inference the author constructs (an If. . Then. . statement of some kind) and the internal consistency of the message—the clarity of the claim, the soundness of the inference, and the effectiveness of its supporting evidence. We call the impact of logos on an audience is called the argument's logical appeal.

The Appeal to Ethos (Greek for 'character') refers to the credibility and authority of the writer or speaker, or the credibility and authority of those brought in to testify on behalf of the argument (or some part of the argument). Ethos is conveyed not only through providing evidence of credibility or authority (reputation, e.g.) but also through tone and style of the speaker or those brought in to support the argument. The impact of ethos is often called the argument's 'ethical appeal' or the 'appeal from credibility.'

The Appeal to Pathos (Greek for 'suffering' or 'experience') is associated with emotional appeal but a better equivalent might be "appeal to the audience's sympathies, instincts, assumptions, and unconcious, beliefs. An appeal to pathos causes an audience not just to respond emotionally but to identify with the writer's point of view—to feel what the writer feels. Perhaps the most common way of conveying a pathetic appeal is through narrative or story, which can turn the abstractions of logic into something palpable and present. The values, beliefs, and understandings of the writer are implicit in the story and conveyed emotionally to the reader.

The above is adapted from Ramage, John D. and John C. Bean. Writing Arguments. 4th Edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1998, 81-82.