How to Identify Ethos, Logos and Pathos by Shmoop


Ethos/Logos/Pathos, a la Shmoop. We all hate losing arguments. It feels good to be right… …but it feels even better to convince someone
else that you’re right. And then maybe rub their face in it a little bit. What if you had a bag of tricks
that you could go to any time you felt someone
needed a little… persuading? Thanks to Aristotle,
the great thinker from ancient Greece… …we have three such tricks that will often
get the job done. They’re not foolproof. In other words, they won’t usually get you out
of mowing the lawn or doing the dishes… …but if you’re writing an argument essay and want a
reader to see, understand and agree with your point… …these tricks are the bee’s knees. Collectively, they are referred to as rhetorical devices. You want to know what they are? Sorry… that’s a rhetorical question. The three devices are called ethos, pathos and logos. Once you’ve mastered these tools, you’ll be
able to write a stellar essay… …win political debates… …and sell just about anything on late-night television. Let’s start with ethos.
Ethos means moral character. When the speaker uses ethos,
he’s trying to persuade his audience by convincing them
that he’s a good guy. So if you pin someone up against a wall and demand that they prefer Coke to Pepsi… …it’s probably not the most effective
means of persuasion. But if that same person gets the sense that
you’re a decent human being… …who just wants to discuss the subject in
a calm manner… …he may be more willing to see
another side of the issue. But moral character alone
isn’t going to get ‘er done. Enter… pathos. Pathos means emotion. As a rhetorical device, pathos gets
us to stop thinking and start feeling. Something political pundits seem
to have down to a science. Ugh… feelings? Does this mean we have to
get all lovey-dovey and mushy-wushy? Well… no. But sometimes appealing to someone’s
softer side can do the trick. If you’re trying to convince a reader that
crude oil is bad for the environment… …don’t just cite figures and fill up the
pages with a bunch of charts and graphs. Talk about the animals that are affected…
and often killed… when there’s a spill. It will only help your case if you can get
your reader to cry over spilt oil. And then there’s the third and
final rhetorical device… logos. Logos means reason. Think logic. Here is where all those aforementioned
charts, graphs and figures come into play. But it’s also about explaining to your reader,
in clear and concise terms… …why they should logically agree with your
point of view. It’s about providing concrete evidence to
support your claims. If you can make them feel stupid for daring
to think differently, all the better. But watch the name-calling. So when writing an argument essay, don’t set pen to paper without the big three in your corner… …Ethos, meaning moral character… …Pathos, meaning emotion… …and logos, meaning reason. You may also want to use Oreos… …which won’t add anything to your
argument, but they sure are delicious.

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