By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Identify and explain ethos, logos, pathos, and kairos.
- Identify and analyze logical fallacies used in persuasion.
- Explain how rhetorical strategies are used in real-life situations.
You, on the other hand, are less keen on the idea; maybe you’re tired of Emiliano’s pizza or of pizza in general. You seem resistant to their suggestion, so they continue their attempts at persuasion by trying different tactics. They tell you that “everyone” is going to Emiliano’s, not only because the food is good but because it’s the place to be on a Thursday evening, hoping that others’ decisions might convince you. Plus, Emiliano’s has “a million things on the menu,” so if you don’t want pizza, you can have “anything you want.” This evidence further strengthens their argument, or so they think.
Your roommates continue, playing on your personal experience, adding that the last time you didn’t join them, you went somewhere else and then got the flu, so you shouldn’t make the same mistake twice. They add details and try to entice you with images of the pizza—a delicious, jeweled circle of brilliant color that tastes like heaven, with bubbling cheese calling out to you to devour it. Finally, they try an extreme last-ditch accusation. They claim you could be hostile to immigrants such as Emiliano and his Haitian and Dominican staff, who are trying to succeed in the competitive pizza market, so your unwillingness to go will hurt their chances of making a living.
However, because you know something about rhetoric and how your roommates are using it to persuade, you can deconstruct their reasoning, some of which is flawed or even deceptive. Your decision is up to you, of course, and you will make it independent of (or dependent on) these rhetorical appeals and strategies.
- Ethos is the presentation of a believable, authoritative voice that elicits an audience’s trust. In the case of the pizza example, the roommates have tried all other pizzerias in town and have a certain expertise.
- Pathos is the use of appeals to feelings and emotions shared by an audience. Emiliano’s pizza tastes good, so it brings pleasure. Plus, you don’t want to be all alone when others are enjoying themselves, nor do you want to feel responsible for the pizzeria’s economic decline.
- Logos is the use of credible information—facts, reasons, examples—that moves toward a sensible and acceptable conclusion. Emiliano’s is good value for the money and provides leftovers.
In addition to these strategies, the roommates in the example use more subtle ones, such as personification and sensory language. Personification is giving an inanimate object human traits or abilities (the cheese is calling out). Sensory language appeals to the five senses (a delicious, jeweled circle of brilliant color).
- Bandwagon: argument that everyone is doing something, so you shouldn’t be left behind by not doing it too. “Everyone” goes to Emiliano’s, especially on Thursdays.
- Hyperbole: exaggeration. Emiliano’s has “a million things on the menu,” and you can get “anything you want.”
- Ad hominem: attacking the person, not the argument. Because you are hesitant about joining your roommates, you are accused of hostility toward immigrants.
- Causal fallacy: claiming or implying that an event that follows another event is the result of it. Because you ate elsewhere, you got the flu.
- Slippery slope: argument that a single action could lead to disastrous consequences. If Emiliano’s misses your business, they may go bankrupt.
In a matter of minutes, your roommates use all these strategies to try to persuade you to act or to agree with their thinking. Identifying and understanding such strategies, and others, is a key element of critical thinking. You can learn more about logical fallacies at the Purdue University Online Writing Lab.
As a whole, rhetoric also depends on another Greek rhetorical strategy, kairos. Kairos is the idea that timing is important in trying to persuade an audience. An appeal may succeed or fail depending on when it is made. The moment must be right, and an effective communicator needs to be aware of their audience in terms of kairos. Going back to the roommates and pizza example, kairos might be an influence in your decision; if you were tired of pizza, had to save money, or wanted to study alone, your roommates would have less chance of persuasion. As a more serious example, if a recent series of car accidents has caused serious injuries on the freeway, an audience might be more receptive to a proposal to reassess speed limits and road signage. Awareness of rhetorical strategies in everyday situations such as this will help you recognize and evaluate them in matters ultimately more significant than pizza.