Rhetoric

Rhetoric is an aspect of communication, first developed in Greek antiquity,[1] applicable to both oral and written communication, and usually involving persuasion, disputation, and/or argument.

Part of the series on
Logic and rhetoric
Key articles
General logic
  • Category mistake
  • Confusion of the inverse
  • False dilemma
  • My enemy's enemy
  • Spurious rigor
  • Word magic
Bad logic
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Classical rhetoric features three rhetorical appeals:[2][3]

  • ethos: an appeal to character, credibility or authority
  • pathos: an appeal to emotion or identity
  • logos: an appeal to logic

While Aristotle (along with, in fact, most rational folks) uses logos, in fact all three can be effective at persuasion, and the most convincing arguments use all three. Note too that people can employ logical fallacies effectively in a persuasive piece or argument, as long as the opposition does not "catch" them doing it.

The Basics to Arguing

Ethos

Appealing to one's reputation or someone else's is essential to getting an audience on their side. This can be broken down into three strategies:[4]

  • Virtue: Showing the speaker and the audience share the same values. An audience is more likely to be convinced by someone they associate with.
  • Practical Wisdom: Displaying one's own credentials, experience, and above all making their positions seem like the middle ground or reasonable compromises.
  • Disinterest: Seeming unbiased or reluctant when drawing your conclusions.

Ethos is best used to get an audience on your side and against your opponent.[5]

Logos

Go ahead, look at the site's extensive guide. Logic is best used to make an audience agree with you.[5]

Pathos

This is typically the final and strongest part part of an argument, though also the most likely to be fallacious. Emotional arguments are best used to move others to action,[5] and go a long way to help when the logic is not in the speaker's favor. Generally, pathos is discouraged and politicians who use it are quickly called out by their opponents as scaremongers. Not all emotions have to be negative to be effective, though; a good speaker can throw plenty of humor and sympathy into a speech to control the audience.

Emotions should always appear to be under control, if just barely; uncontrolled passion is generally too much to convince an audience.

Kairos

Kairos is the art of using the right timing for an argument.[6] This generally comes down to common sense an argument based on reputation will work best immediately after accomplishing something, an argument based on logic will work best when the audience is pleased and willing to listen, and an argument based on emotion will work best in a time of crisis.

References

  1. Except when otherwise: see for example Ancient Indian Rhetoric.
  2. University of Missouri, Kansas City — Three Rhetorical Appeals: Ethos, Pathos, Logos by George H. Williams.
  3. Durham Technological Community College: Aristotle's Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.
  4. Heinrichs, p. 374-376
  5. Heinrichs, p. 40
  6. Heinrichs, p. 261
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