Going old school: ethos, pathos and logos

Like so many disciplines of today, rhetoric, i.e. the discipline of speaking has its beginnings in the ancient Greece. This is why the teachings of philosophers, among others the godfathers of philosophy – Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, are still taught at the beginning of many rhetoric courses.

These teachings represent the basics of writing, preparing and performing speeches and although they may be very theoretical, knowing certain fundamentals can give you a clear understanding of how to approach and improve your speaking performance as well as give you a good understanding of what you can achieve with it.

My favourite teaching is Aristotle’s three appeals: ethos, pathos and logos and I will present it in the following three posts. Clicking on each of the appeals / links underneath will take you to these posts where you can learn how to use them to your advantage.

Basically, the three appeals represent three aspects of a speech and also three means of persuasion:

  • Ethos refers to the speaker’s character. It stands for the reputation the speaker has and the ways the speaker can use it to convince the audience. 
  • Pathos refers to emotions. If the speaker is trying to elicit emotions, e.g.  make the audience happy or sad, the speaker is playing with the pathos. 
  • Logos refers to the content of the speech. It represents the choice of words, logical operations and devices like metaphors that the speaker uses. 

Don’t be afraid of a bit of the good old philosophy! These guys are quite cool, you just have to get to know them, plus I tried to explain it the way I understand it myself – in modern terms.

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