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(Ancient Persuasion Skills for the Present)


The Semester's POWER TOOLS ARE SKILLS for:

1) reading/analyzing

2) pre-writing/drafting/Revising (Analysis and Argument Papers),

3) Researching effectively and Critically


4) Reflecting on your learning





Power Tool #1:  Considering the Rhetorical Situation

in Planning, Pre-Writing, Drafting, Reading....



always means "reading" or analyzing texts as part of a



The Text itself (the genre, structure, rhetorical features)
The Author (their ideas, ability, reputation, purposes)  The AUDIENCE (what they know, value, believe)



We think of every text or piece of "communication" as essentially part of this triangle or "trilateral relationship".

 We read a text by thinking about each point of the triangle, how each point of the triangle influences the others, and how all points are influenced by the context of the communication. 


In other words, the rhetorical situation

MUST BE THOUGHT OF AS WITHIN a real social and historical CONTEXT


Power Tool #2:  The 3 Appeals


Each point of the triangle also corresponds with Aristotle's three appeals 

There are THREE BROAD CATEGORIES of persuasion, or 'persuasive appeals' used in almost any act of communication, either consciously or unconsciously.  

Aristotle calls these the "means of persuasion" or: 


Three Appeals:





Rational Appeals (logos)

Emotional Appeals (pathos)

Ethical Appeals (ethos)

Logos focuses first on the general structures or rules of any written or spoken communication.


Logos can be discussed as the structure/form of a narrative (fantasy narratives, an epic, a short story, a parable...).


Logos can be discussed as the conventions of a genre (advertising conventions, music video conventions, horror movie conventions, literary analysis conventions, conventions of science writing...)


Logos can be discussed as the rules of  logic, or the rules of effective rhetoric in argumentation: asserting smart or reasonable claims, premises, explanation and proof, such as demonstrable evidence.  Logos will also be discussed as the main types of claims, and the common structures of arguments (see "Stasis" below).


This takes us to some of the main components of Logos that concern us:



These are statements or assertions that something is the case, typically without providing evidence or proof.

"he claimed that he came from a wealthy, educated family"

synonyms: assertdeclareprofessmaintainstate



Evidence is something that can be questioned but, if strong, cannot be refuted, as courts of law seek to demonstrate. If you show, then it is very difficult to deny without calling into question the validity of the evidence produced.

Evidence can include:

  • Science and scientific proof are based on the use of empirical evidence. 
  • statistics or established facts
  • case studies or experiments
  • pictures, charts, graphs
  • recounted experience (especially first hand) or anecdotes
  • analogies or metaphors  

Pathos may also be evoked when giving evidence as you give it an emotional spin. Ethos is also important to establish the credibility of a witness.



Reason works basically on premises that establish rational points that most often (effectively) follow the common argument structures or forms (see Rhetorical Forms and Stasis below).  A common tool in reasoning, for instance, is to link two items together, for example by cause and effect.

Reasoning often uses the components of the enthymeme (see below) or syllogisms that include a major premise, a minor premise and a conclusion based on the combination of the two premises.



Appeals to our sense of LOGOS can also be based on bad)logical reasoning, including:     

  • poor use of argument structures or forms 
  • (un)warranted arguments
  • (mis)use of facts, or stats or case studies
  • (mis)use of analogies/metaphors
  • and fallacies like strawman, slipperyslope, ad hominem, bandwagon, etc.  

Appeals to emotion or affect are important parts of most persuasive texts, from classic speeches and written arguments to contemporary media, digital texts and our heavily advertised culture.  


Pathos is any appeal to persuade an audience by creating emotions, or feelings.  An appeal to pathos often taps into common sentiments, and pathos influences not just emotions -- because emotions always have the potential to shape how we think as emotional and rational/logical beings.  


Furthermore, pathos can be thought of as working on both emotions and human "affect" -- here's the main distinction:

  • "Emotions" are complex and, as you would expect, have rich definitions and histories in scholarship.
  • "Affect" is something less easy to define, but it means a physiological response by the body, or "an instinctual reaction to stimulation occurring before the typical cognitive processes considered necessary for the formation of a more complex emotion"][1]


We can think of pathos in terms of appeals to higher emotions (those emotions considered more virtuous).  Such as the attempts to create/spread/ or appeal to:

  • our sense of empathy, sympathy or compassion,
  • love
  • hope
  • enthusiasm
  • courage...etc.

Appeals to lower emotions (considered less virtuous) are also common, such as the attempts to create/spread/or appeal to:

  • greed
  • lust
  • revenge
  • vanity
  • anger
  • hate
  • shame 
  • etc. 


Pathos is pretty easy to analyze in videos, speeches or essays.  It can get tricky thought, as in any piece of communication or rhetoric, people can leverage 'lower emotions' for good, and vice versa, 'higher emotions' can be exploited to unethical ends. 

In classical rhetoric ethos is a persuasive appeal based on the the projected CHARACTER of the speaker or writer -- or the projected character of a person being discussed in an essay, or represented visually in a video or image.  It is, thus, a part of the argument or "persuasive text" that influences an audience based on the quality of the 'persona'.  


That sounds pretty straightforward, but ethos is the most broad of the three appeals -- and it is even a synonym for "philosophy". This is mainly because we can think of someone's ethos as persuasive because it projects an ethical or unethical quality, largely because it is associated with the 'goodness' (or 'badness') of the author (and their motives for creating a text, and persuading an audience), or the figure being discussed.  For instance, I can only be a very persuasive instructor if you perceive me to be both 'good' at my job, and a sort of 'good' person -- with the intentions of helping you learn, deal with challenges, etc.


Appeals to the character of a person or author (like you), can also be extended to the character (or goodness/badness) of a community, a company, a nation, or an ideology.  


Most basically, a positive/appealing ethos aims to create a sense of competence and credibility, balance or fairness, authority and trustworthiness, and ultimately some sense that they're working towards an ethical/good end.  


Ethos (like logos) is created through: 

  • expert testimony
  • reliable sources, etc.

But also reflects a brader 

  • attitude
  • character of speaker(s)/writer(s) 
  • ethics or morals
  • even the 'spirit' of a person or place 


These appeals work because the character of the audience wants to identify with this ethos or:

  • the perceived virtues of the person 


Ethos gets pretty deep.  See Richard Nordquist's suggestions for further introductions to ethos if your interested in these more philosophical questions:




(Logos) Power Tool #3:




We will talk about "stasis" and "forms" together.  They are similar, as "stasis" means 'stable' and in rhetoric it is a 'stable procedure' that allows you to ask questions to explore all the potential sides of an issue.  "Forms" has to do with the common structures or 'modes' of writing that can then take shape.  We're going to simplify this a little and say:


There are 5 (possibly 6) of the most common FORMS OF ARGUMENTATION.

We need to know these because

these give structure to most arguments people make -- and we need to be able to analyze these in order to make our own effective arguments.  In fact these forms are used all the time to structure: paragraphs, key parts of essays/speeches, or even whole essays or books.  

They also structure the most common 'types of claims' in arguments at the sentence level. 


Therefore, these are commonplace 'ways' (poros) of developing the building blocks of argument/reasoning and arranging larger portions of thinking or argumentation.  

Rhetoricians have argued that these are in fact the basis of any functional kind of


which would allow a democracy to work.  




Resemblance (or comparison) arguments

Cause/Effect arguments

Definition arguments

Evaluation arguments

Proposal arguments

(some include Rebuttal arguments as a 6th form)




Power Tool #4:


Enthymemes:  In our course this concept is a tool for thinking about basic (essential) structure 

of arguments.  Enthymemes are the building blocks of arguments in any form -- though it's important remember that sometimes people leave out key parts!  




The enthymeme typically occurs as a claim or conclusion coupled with a reason. When several enthymemes are linked together, this becomes sorites (or an argument) 


  • There are, however, other components of the FULL Enthymeme to look for: 
    • Main Claim:  (here you can identify its form/stasis)                                                        
    • Stated Reasons:  (here you are dealing with reasons that are explicitly stated, not implied)  
    • Unstated Assumptions: (here you are dealing with what is unsaid, but assumed to be the case -- and there are reasonable assumptions)
    • Grounds or Evidence: (here you are dealing with what evidence is given or needed)                                                                                
    • Rebuttal or counter arguments: (here you are looking for or raising potential counter arguments)  


We look for enthymemes when we analyze texts, because these ask us to

 find claims (and identify their form), and to think through how they’re supported by reasons, assumptions, and evidence.

Looking for enthymemes also helps us map their relationships with other claims in a larger argument.


Working with enthymemes can be tough, or surprisingly easy.   You will rarely see a claim followed explicitly by all the parts of the enthymeme, that would be clunky formal logic that is sometimes barely readable.  Instead you will likely see a good argument make an explicit claim, give clear reasons, some well chosen evidence, deal with a counter argument or two, and perhaps note any assumptions their readers might be making.  Good arguments might also leave some of this up to the readers.  Bad arguments might miss key parts of the enthymeme, or assume readers fall into bad assumptions behind arguments, or that readers/viewers are easily persuaded by bad evidence, or faulty reasoning. 




Power Tool #5:  Common Patterns in (ir)Rational Arguments 


Dissoi-Logoi (establishing and working through counter-arguments, and the ethical imperative to consider at least two positions start every argument)


Exigence:  Extending reasons or motivations (or events) which create the need for argument, communication or writing.  Exigence can be simple, or complex (or both).  The classical definition focuses on a 'problem' that we try to solve through writing or communication, defining exigence as: “an imperfection marked by urgency; it is a defect, an obstacle, something waiting to be done, a thing which is other than it should be.”


Biases: Looking to identify bias, judge its source and rate the level of bias (not all biases are bad), but some are


Fallacy Finder: looking to identify fallacies and avoid them in our own writing


Synecdoche: is a type of metaphor in which the part stands for a larger whole, the whole for a part,


eutripismus or enumeratio: simply detailing the parts of an argument, a number of related causes, effects, or consequences to make a point more forcibly


common grounda basis of mutual interest or agreement that is found or established in the course of an argument.  Finding common ground is an essential aspect of conflict resolution and a key to ending disputes peacefully.



Specialty Tools for Proposal Arguments:


phronesis - Appeal to practical skills & wisdom (set up your proposal as being practical or a middle ground that differs significanly from others more extreme options.  Note, that this middle way often requires some patience and wisdom...then describe why your proposal is the wise choice in this case)


arete - Appeal to virtue, goodness.  Is there an appeal directly to ethical inclinations in people? Is a proposal being made the means to an end that will be GOOD for people suffering?   People can see these as idealist appeals or proposals, but they can be reminded that it is through an appeal to habitual acts of good that change often comes...and that any virtue is instilled in people.  People try to suggest that their proposal is not an isolated act of virtue but part of a system or process of doing good that continues (and is fueled by) their "good" actions or the actions of others 'paying it forward'.


eunoia -- good will towards the audience.  This really means showing an act of goodwill yourself.  Is your proposal itself an act of goodwill...if so...show us it in action and let it speak for itself.



Writing/Reading/Researching Technologies:

(under development)



Wayback Machine

Fallacy Finder





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