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Rhetorical Appeals: Logos

Rhetorical Appeals: Logos

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson introduces rhetorical appeals, particularly Logos.

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Welcome to English Composition. My name is Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What will we learn today? We'll talk about rhetorical appeals, and briefly cover the three types, logos, ethos, and pathos. Then we're going to look at why they're important for readers and writers. And finally, we'll start our investigation into the three by taking a close look at logos, or appeals to logic or reasoning.

We've already discussed rhetorical situations, but what's a rhetorical appeal? There are modes or matters of writing designed to persuade or convince. Ancient Greeks created rhetoric, which is the study and art of persuasive language. And many of history's most famous rhetoricians were Greek-- Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others.

There are three types of rhetorical appeals, and they're known primarily by the names the ancient Greeks used, logos, ethos, and pathos. The first of appeal, and the one we'll discuss in more detail later on in the video, is logos, also known as appeals to logic or reasoning. The second is ethos, appeals to credibility or character. Which leaves the third, pathos, or appeals to emotion. An author will frequently use one, two, or even three of these types of rhetorical appeals in order to persuade or convince their audience.

So why is it important for you to understand and be able to recognize these three types of appeals? Rhetorical appeals are persuasive in nature, so we tend to associate them with argumentative writing. But in reality, they're everywhere. It's hard to find an example of an academic text or non-academic text that doesn't make at least implicit use of one of these modes. Readers who can recognize them are better suited to make up their own minds, and to think and write more critically and effectively. Rhetorical appeals are important tools. And trust me, you want to be able to use them and to realize when they're being used on you.

Logos, or appeals to logic, are very common both in and out of academia. Logos is a tool writers use to persuade their readers to accept the logical conclusions based on statements and evidence that the writer presents. Whether you realized it or not, you've been seeing logos at work all your life.

Here are a couple examples of logical reasoning. In the first, the writer advances the claim that if America has the greatest health care system in the world, changing it is a bad thing, and therefore Obama care is a bad thing. In the second, the writer claims that since Shakespeare wrote his play The Tempest after A Midsummer Night's Dream, and implicitly that writers like Shakespeare get better at their craft over time, therefore Tempest is the better play. Notice that despite the pure logic at use in both of these examples, neither is definitively true or untrue. Keep in mind that logic is not infallible. It's a tool.

There are two primary forms of reasoning you're likely to encounter in a textual argument, deductive and inductive reasoning. Since both function differently, it's important to distinguish between them, even though you yourself most likely use them both today. Deductive reasoning starts with a broad set of principles, ideas, or observations, and then narrows them down to form a specific, testable hypothesis. For example, the reasoning that states that if we accept the statements that all mammals have hair and that all dolphins are mammals, then we can deduce that dolphins must have hair. I believe this is true too, but mostly because I remember being told they have eyelashes, not because of any deduction.

The other common form of reasoning is inductive. This is reasoning that begins from specific principles or observations and extrapolates from them to draw and test broader conclusions. As an example of inductive reasoning, consider this hypothetical test. If every cat I've observed likes fish, I can use inductive reasoning to assume that the next cat I try to feed will like it too, as will the next and the next and so on.

These types of reasoning are used every day, by everyone from scientists to philosophers to very young children trying to understand the world around them. The point is to recognize them so you can use them consciously and more effectively. What did we learn today? We learned the three types of rhetorical appeals and talked about how and why they're important. Then we looked at appeals to logic, or logos, including inductive and deductive reasoning. My name is Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

Terms to Know

Appeals to logic; uses logic to persuade or convince.

Rhetorical Appeals

Modes used in writing that are designed to persuade or convince.