Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Strengths and Weaknesses of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

As stated in the last post, all aspects of the rhetorical triangle are important for helping create an successful argument that can persuade others. However, each of the three sides have different positive and negative aspects. An author could possibly use all of them, or choose not to use one if they thought it could possibly strengthen their argument, or was unnecessary. An author can also chose in what way they choose to present each one that they choose to use.

Ethos shows the authors credibility to the audience. There are two main ways to express ethos. One is by giving anecdotes or personal accounts that show how close they are to the issue being talked about. For example, if the topic of persuasion was related to drugs, the speaker could provide a personal story about their relationship with drugs, to show that they have experience with the topic. Similarly, another way to achieve this is to provide a prestigious or very specific field of experience, such as being a professor of something related to the topic. In the drug example, a professor that researches how drugs affect the behavior of people would have great experience in the topic, and would provide sufficient ethos. However, ethos still has several strengths and weaknesses. Since ethos provides credibility, it can help convince others that since the author has extensive knowledge on the topic, they and their opinion can be trusted. However, it could do the opposite, as a reader may think that a person's title that should provide ethos could provide the aura of pretentiousness. This could turn the person off of the argument, and fail to convince the reader of anything. In "Freakonomics," every chapter has a different subject. Because the topics vary so vastly, each one requires a different person to achieve ethos. For example, in Chapter 3, the topic is how the drug dealing business is just as competitive and has the same model as normal capitalist business. For this chapter's ethos, the speaker used was Sudhir Venkatesh, an economics student who spent years around a drug dealing gang to study their economic model and patterns. Because of his large amount of experience with the subject, the argument is valid. On the other hand, in Chapter 5, the ethos is gained by using a study provided by the U.S Department of Education called Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. In this case, because of the prestigious and official title, the study and argument based off of the study has credibility.

As said in the previous entry, pathos is based on emotional appeals to the audience. The main ways to get this is through trying to predict the values of the readers. The author could put in an anecdote to appeal to feelings, or use specific language that makes the readers feel bad if they do not agree with the opinion presented. However, while pathos lets the readers connect with the author and the argument emotionally, it also has some downsides. There are no facts to back up the opinion, and since there are no facts it may seem to some readers that the arguement has no logical backing. In "Freakonomics," the only uses of pathos are in other people's arguments which the authors are attempting to disprove. It is used the least out of the three, because the whole purpose of there claim is that the obvious and most popular opinions are usually wrong, and pathos is the device usually used to back up arguments of that type. This happens in Chapter 1, where others explanations on cheating in sumo wrestler matches as well as by teachers on standardized testing were disproved because the readers emotions, and the authors of those explanations use of pathos meant that they ignored the actual explanation, all because they believed that those professions would never stoop so low. Another example is in Chapter 6, where pathos influenced how successful people with different names, because of people's emotions and connotations on them.

Logos is based solely off of logic. To show logos, the author can use sets of data, analogies, or analyses of any type of data or information. While an argument using logos is useful as it can prove things be simple facts and logic that people can follow, it may also seem impersonal, as  there is no emotion involved at all. This method is what is most used in "Freakonomics," because they were trying to use only facts to show how emotions make people think common sense opinions, which can be disproved by facts. Some of the examples of this are in Chapter 5, where the parenting duties are analyzed by how much they affect children to try and find correlations, and to prove that most things that define "good parenting" really do nothing significant, or in Chapter 4, where they provide police data, crime rates, and abortion rates to both disprove the arguments that the economy and better policing were the causes of less crime, and that the legalization of abortion was the true cause, even though people's emotions and values have blinded them from this apparent revelation.

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