Rhetorical Situations: Ethos, Pathos, Logos Essay
A rhetorical situation is a context that constitutes a given issue, the audience, and the constraints that might make it hard for the speaker to persuade the audience to share his or her viewpoint. Rhetorical situations are important as they create a space where various issues can be critically examined, allowing the presenters a chance to sell their ideas in the social-political, economic, and personal domains. According to Aristotle, persuasion techniques exists in the forms of logos, pathos, and ethos, which speakers use to influence their audiences into sharing their perspectives on different issues.
Ethos is the appeal to personal ethics in which the party making an argument attempts to persuade their audience they can be trusted because of their integrity or good reputation. For example, a sales representative for a car manufacturer may tell his prospective clients of the many famous people or organizations he has supplied with cars. Essentially, he is saying that, since he has retrospectively provided good services in the past, he can be relied on to so again because of his reputation.
Companies like IKEA and Wal-Mart use their position as market leaders in their field to “prove” to their clients that they are the best retailers because of their wide experience. Alternatively, speakers can use the ad hominem strategy to undermine their adversaries by criticizing their personality rather than their political ideology and agenda. For instance, some of President Bill Clinton’s opponents claimed he could not be trusted to run the government because he was unfaithful to his wife. By so doing, they wanted the audience to judge his presidency negatively using his personality instead of policy.
On the other hand, pathos appeal to emotions by using them to manipulate the audience into sympathizing or relating to a given viewpoint. Pathos is used by speakers and authors to elicit pity or inspire emotions such as anger, fear, and outrage, all of which can then be harnessed draw support for a given issue. Advertisers and politicians frequently use pathos to convince the masses to buy their products and support their positions, respectively.
For example, a few months ago, I witnessed ethos persuasion in action as an insurance salesperson was trying to market his products to some of my colleagues. He explained in vivid detail, the suffering that children often undergo when their parents pass away unexpectedly and how some had to go on welfare and even fail to get into college. His argument was designed to invoke fear since most people are terrified at the thought of leaving their loved ones without adequate means. By capitalizing on this universal fear, he managed to persuade several of them to subscribe to his packages.
The use of Logos appeal requires one to justify their arguments objectively using statistics, historical analogies, and other proofs to support their argument and garner support. While the Greek definition of logos means “word”, logos, however, transcends the semantic implication and focuses instead on their explicit definitions and meanings. It is the most reliable persuasion technique because it is objective and focuses exclusively on the facts and proofs backing them up instead of the subjective sentiments and ad hominem implications in the other two techniques. An example of Logos appeal is evident the campaign against environmental pollution and degradation in the film, inconvenient truth.
The creators gathered historical evidence of the impact of human action on the environment and used it to predict what may be expected to happen in posterity. By using well-researched empirical evidence, the film proved that it is logical for people to care for the environment since the consequence of not doing so are inevitable doom.
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