Ethos, Pathos, Logos…A Persuasive Voice

Grabbing Attention

“Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.” Aristotle – paraphrased.

Many of the founding generations can find themselves locked into ethos based thinking where the integrity of the original thought is paramount. Any writer that has become ethos based and has no clear vision for either the Pathos or Logos elements will find themselves unable to articulate their story. The protagonist must appeal to a sense of ethics, the reason they are set on a course of rescue or heroism. When their ethos is attacked, as we challenge their beliefs, they lose all reason, they revert to passionate and venomous acts. 

Pathos is about connection, buy-in, believing the ethos rhetoric to be strong on promise and clarity (but it isn’t). The existential and past iteration, the reason they are in the story at all bringing meaning to what is otherwise empty existence. It’s the common thread and it cannot be broken or they will have nothing left and no ethos on which to fight for their relationships. The ethos mind is a campfire mind. They sit around the campfire, they watch the flames, they feel its warmth and they fear moving away, less it becomes unattended and goes out. The flames have mesmerised and paralysed them into huddled inertia. The ingredient missing from the leaders of this story is wisdom. So their only course is to revert to sympathy (pathos)…without you guys, we don’t stand a chance, so and so is too powerful…get behind the ethos and help us protect it…pathos has just teamed up with ethos…this isn’t a good place to be when the antagonist is strong and powerful.

Logos, on the other hand, is logical, consistent, strategic and factual. It is based on reasoning, seeing the path to a bigger picture and focusing on the destination. It is the enemy of an ethos-pathos based storyteller. Logos is the dry, emotionless face of the main theme. The dominant thinking of the ruler, the heartless beast that will trample ethos and pathos to death if they are not intertwined with each other.

But if it is handled wisely, carefully, compassionately and kindly, Logos is a powerful and phenomenal invitation to set aside fear and see that the world needs ethos and pathos alongside Logos, it needs to present a belief in all three to reach a new nirvana, a new destination, a fertile land from which we can all feed and nurture each other. Logos will point out the folly of ethos-pathos based thinking, it will attack their lack of reasoning and it will expose their weak underbelly. But when they team up…your message is loud and clear. It is carapace and powerful…everyone who wants to follow the characters through a story possessed by hope and expectation will love you…they get you, they want to participate in the story.