Unit 2: Hades and the Underworld

Article: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

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Bust of Aristotle at National Museum of Rome. Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto, \ccby

Before You Read

Discuss these questions with a classmate or together as a class.

  1. What do you need to make a good argument?
  2. What do people do to persuade others?
  3. What kind of research do you do in order to make an opinion about something?
  4. What are bad or unsuccessful ways that people persuade others?
  5. Imagine that your soul is being judged in the Underworld by the three judges. What arguments would you give to prove that you were a good person?
  6. Skim the next reading. What do you think is the author’s purpose of the text: to inform, entertain, or to persuade? How will that affect the way you take notes on the reading?

Vocabulary in Context

The following sentences are from the article you are about to read. Guess the meaning of the vocabulary in bold.

  1. You will often hear ethos, pathos, and logos referred to as the three modes of persuasion.
  2. Ethos is a way of convincing your audience of your credibility as a writer.
  3. Some credibility can be, in a way, built-in. For example, if a Psychology professor were writing an essay about the psychology of eating disorders, she or he would have strong, built-in ethos.
  4. Think about the broad spectrum of human emotions: sadness, humor, pity, sympathy, anger, outrage; these are all things that motivate us.
  5. Pathos provides writers with a tool to get the audience emotionally invested in the message.
  6. Pathos is generally the least respected of the three ethical appeals in the academic community.

Modes of Persuasion: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

From the Online Writing Lab at Excelsior College, \ccby

Over two thousand years ago, a famous Greek teacher, scientist, and rhetorician, Aristotle, taught his students that there were three basic ways of convincing your audience of something—or at least getting your audience to listen to what you have to say. We still use these concepts today. You will often hear ethos, pathos, and logos referred to as the three modes of persuasion.

These modes of persuasion will probably come quite naturally to you, but having a strong awareness of how to be most convincing to your audience will help you as you write argumentative essays or prepare persuasive speeches.

Ethos

Ethos is a way of convincing your audience of your credibility as a writer. Some credibility can be, in a way, built-in. Level of education in relation to the topic may provide some built-in ethos. For example, if a Psychology professor were writing an essay about the psychology of eating disorders, she or he would have strong, built-in ethos. But, if that same professor were to try to write a paper on quantum physics, her or his educational background would provide no built-in ethos.

You need not worry if you have no built-in ethos or credibility. There is also the kind of ethos or credibility you work to establish as you write. By using appeals to emotion and logic responsibly, you can build your ethos. You can also build your ethos by using credible sources. When you use expert research and opinion in your writing, you get to use the expert ethos to build your own.


Pathos

Most simply, pathos is the appeal to our human emotions. We’re more often moved by our emotions than by logic or common sense, so pathos is a powerful mode of persuasion. As a writer, your job is to make the audience feel connected with your topic. This is where pathos can help. Think about the broad spectrum of human emotions: sadness, humor, pity, sympathy, anger, outrage; these are all things that motivate us. Pathos provides writers with a tool to get the audience emotionally invested in the message.

Pathos is a powerful means of persuasion. But you should be very careful with pathos. Pathos is generally the least respected of the three ethical appeals in the academic community. In many fields of study, emotion is something that should be left out completely. Most of the time, the best advice is to be careful with pathos and use it wisely. Misusing pathos can negatively affect your ethos or credibility.


Logos

Logos is the appeal to our logical side. Logos is about the facts we present in our writing and the logical manner in which we present our ideas. Having strong logos is one important way that we can build our ethos within an essay. For example, if you’re writing a research paper on the Plague in Medieval times, you’ll want to gather a good deal of research and then incorporate that research in an organized and effective manner. You should also make sure that your points or arguments are logical in nature, and you should avoid faulty logic.

Ethos, pathos, and logos are all interconnected. When you write an argument, you’ll want to think about how these modes of persuasion work together to make for a strong argument overall.

Comprehension Questions

Answer the questions below according to the reading using your own words. Make a note of where you found the answer in your reading.

  1. What are the three modes of persuasion?
  2. Who created this idea?
  3. What is “ethos”, and how is it used to persuade?
  4. What is “logos”, and how is it used to persuade?
  5. What is “pathos”, and how is it used to persuade?
  6. According to the article, which of the three modes of persuasion is the least respected? Explain why.

Critical Thinking Questions

Answer the following questions. Compare your answers with a partner.

  1. Who is probably the audience for this article?
  2. This article focuses on how to use these modes in writing. Would it be the same or different for speaking?
  1. How could the three modes of persuasion be used in the workplace?
  2. Which mode of persuasion do you think is most important in the following fields?• Teaching
    • Politics
    • Medical fields
    • Advertising products
    • Engineering
    • Business
  3. Label the pictures below with the correct mode: ethos, pathos, logos
    image image image

CEFR Level: CEF Level C1

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It’s All Greek to Me! by Charity Davenport is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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