Ethos Definition Essay Samples

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are modes of persuasion used to convince audiences.  They are also referred to as the three artistic proofs (Aristotle coined the terms), and are all represented by Greek words. 

Ethos or the ethical appeal, means to convince an audience of the author’s credibility or character.

An author would use ethos to show to his audience that he is a credible source and is worth listening to. Ethos is the Greek word for “character.” The word “ethic” is derived from ethos.

Ethos can be developed by choosing language that is appropriate for the audience and topic (also means choosing proper level of vocabulary), making yourself sound fair or unbiased, introducing your expertise or pedigree, and by using correct grammar and syntax.

Pathos or the emotional appeal, means to persuade an audience by appealing to their emotions.

Authors use pathos to invoke sympathy from an audience; to make the audience feel what what the author wants them to feel. A common use of pathos would be to draw pity from an audience. Another use of pathos would be to inspire anger from an audience; perhaps in order to prompt action. Pathos is the Greek word for both “suffering” and “experience.” The words empathy and pathetic  are derived from pathos.

Pathos can be developed by using meaningful language, emotional tone, emotion evoking examples, stories of emotional events, and implied meanings. 

Logos or the appeal to logic, means to convince an audience by use of logic or reason.

To use logos would be to cite facts and statistics, historical and literal analogies, and citing certain authorities on a subject.Logos is the Greek word for “word,” however the true definition goes beyond that, and can be most closely described as “the word or that by which the inward thought is expressed, Lat. oratio; and,  the inward thought itself, Lat. Ratio. (1) The word “logic” is derived from logos.

Logos can be developed by using advanced, theoretical or abstract language, citing facts (very important), using historical and literal analogies, and by constructing logical arguments.

In order to persuade your audience, proper of Ethos, Pathos and Logos is necessary.

Examples of Ethos, Logos and Pathos:

Example of Ethos: 

"I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future."

Democratic Presidential Candidate Acceptance Speech by Barack Obama. August 28th, 2008.

Example of Pathos:

"I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed."

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr. August 28th, 1963.

Example of Logos:

"However, although private final demand, output, and employment have indeed been growing for more than a year, the pace of that growth recently appears somewhat less vigorous than we expected. Notably, since stabilizing in mid-2009, real household spending in the United States has grown in the range of 1 to 2 percent at annual rates, a relatively modest pace. Households' caution is understandable. Importantly, the painfully slow recovery in the labor market has restrained growth in labor income, raised uncertainty about job security and prospects, and damped confidence. Also, although consumer credit shows some signs of thawing, responses to our Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices suggest that lending standards to households generally remain tight."

The Economic Outlook and Monetary Policy by Ben Bernanke. August 27th, 2010.

Ethos Definition

In rhetoric, ethos represents credibility, or an ethical appeal, which involves persuasion by the character involved.

Origin of Ethos

The term has its roots in Aristotle’s “ingredients of persuasion,” or “appeals.” He divides means of persuasion into three distinct categories: ethos, pathos, and logos. He says in his treatise On Rhetoric:

“Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. […] Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.”

It is a means of convincing others of the character or credibility of the persuader. It is natural for us to accept the credibility of people whom we hold in reverence.

In an argument, it is of utmost value for a speaker or a writer to impress upon listeners and readers the idea that is worth listening to. In other words, the credibility of a speaker or a writer relies on his or her authority on the subject matter, as well as on how much he or she is liked and deemed worthy of respect.

Ethos and Ad Hominem Argument

In an attempt to confirm his credibility, a writer or speaker will make use of a typical type of argument called an “ad hominem argument.” It is an argument “against the man,” which undermines the ethos of a speaker or a writer in opposition.  It is a strategy in which a speaker or a writer attacks the character or personality of an opponent speaker or writer, rather than criticizing the matter of his or her point of view. Such an argument, however, is generally thought to be a logical fallacy. Nevertheless, it can prove to be exceptionally successful and is fairly common in politics.

Examples of Ethos in Literature

Classification of ethos may be based on its position, such as the following examples of ethos.

Example #1:

Choice of words can confirm ethos with customers:

“Our expertise in roofing contracting is evidenced, not only by our 100 years in the business and our staff of qualified technicians, but in the decades of satisfied customers who have come to expect nothing but the best.”

The advertisers try to build up their credibility with their customers by repeatedly mentioning the experience they have in the field, and the technical expertise of their staff.

Example #2:

“Doctors all over the world recommend this type of treatment.”

People tend to believe the opinions of doctors in the matter of medical treatments.

Example #3:

“John is a forensics and ballistics expert, working for the federal government for many years. If anyone’s qualified to determine the murder weapon, it’s him.”

Here, John is put forth as the most qualified person to determine the murder weapon – based on his ethos in working for the federal government as a forensic and ballistics expert.

Example #4:

“If his years as a soldier taught him anything, it’s that caution is the best policy in this sort of situation.”

A soldier’s opinion is more credible than an ordinary man’s opinion in violent situations.

Example #5:

“My three decades of experience in public service, my tireless commitment to the people of this community, and my willingness to reach across the aisle and cooperate with the opposition, make me the ideal candidate for your mayor.”

The public can easily be persuaded by giving them some knowledge about a candidate’s past experience, past actions, and preferred policies.

Example #6:

Ethos examples in TV ads are not only expressed in words. For instance, in a commercial for toothpaste, an actor puts on a white lab coat and talks about how that particular toothpaste is good for teeth. By putting on a white lab coat, an actor looks like a doctor, and thus gains credibility as people consider a doctor’s remarks to be more credible than an actor’s.

Function of Ethos

The above explanations and examples of ethos reveal the following facts about this device:

  • Ethos confirms the credibility of a writer or a speaker, and thus they become trustworthy in the eyes of listeners and readers who, as a result are persuaded by the arguments.
  • Ethos of a speaker or a writer is created largely by the choice of words he or she chooses to convince listeners or readers.
  • Being an expert on the subject matter determines his or her ethos.

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