More on “Pathos as Inquiry”

Several people emailed me about my previous post on pathos asking “What if the audience is not angry? How should we deal with other emotions?”

Anger is where Aristotle starts his analysis of the emotions in Book 2 of the Rhetoric, which George Kennedy notes in his translation is “the earliest systematic discussion of human psychology” (122). In his discussion of anger Aristotle lays out his basic three-step strategy for dealing with emotions: 1) discover the state of mind of the audience, 2) discover the people toward whom the emotion is directed, and 3) discover the grounds or causes of the emotion. With this knowledge, the speaker can work to create the particular emotional state that is conducive to his or her case.

Aristotle’s List

Aristotle’s list of emotions and definitions is very Greek and not quite what we would produce. In addition to anger and calm, he analyzes “friendly feeling” versus enmity, fear versus confidence, shame versus shamelessness, kindliness versus unkindliness, pity (which he notes could be paired with either indignation or envy as opposites), “being indignant” (which is related to a number of other emotions), and finally envy, which is seen as desiring the good that others have, contrasted with “emulation,” which is also a state of desiring what others have but working to acquire these goods. Thus “envy” is negative and unproductive and “emulation” is a positive striving.

There is quite a bit of overlap and things don’t fit together neatly in the way that Aristotle usually attempts. However, these emotions are all rhetorically useful. Kennedy notes that Aristotle saw the emotions as moods or temporary states that “arise in large part from perception of what is publicly due to or from oneself at a given time” and thus affect judgment (124).

Social Standing and Emotions

The root cause of negative emotions according to Aristotle is disparities in social standing. We are angry if we are insulted by someone we consider a social inferior. We are envious of someone who possesses goods that we think we deserve. We have enmity or hatred toward a person who is from an unrespectable group, such as criminals or beggars. All of these emotions are about a disturbance in the social calculus. Aristotle doesn’t include emotions such as love or sadness, or grief, because unlike Plato, who sees rhetoric as the “art of leading the soul to truth by means of words,” he sees rhetoric mainly as a one-to-many enterprise for persuading groups. Thus emotions that are essentially individual mental states are not rhetorically useful.

Even fear has a social dimension. Aristotle says “If fear is accompanied by an expectation of experiencing some destructive misfortune, it is evident that no one is afraid if he is one of those who thinks he will suffer nothing; people fear neither things they do not think they will suffer nor other people by whom they do not think they will be harmed” (141). Fear is often fear of others, but if social relationships are in order, we have nothing to fear.  Aristotle acknowledges that it may help the speaker’s case to make the audience fearful.

Some who emailed me mentioned states of mind such as indifference or apathy. “Apathy” is literally the absence of emotion. If the audience is in this state, the rhetorical move is likely to be to make them feel something.

A Revised List of Questions

So, how can we help students navigate the range of possible emotions beyond anger? Robby Ching suggested modifying my questions a bit:

Analysis Questions

  • Who is my audience? How do they define themselves?
  • What do they already believe about my topic?
  • What do they value?
  • What do they desire?
  • What is their state of mind? What emotions do they feel?
  • What makes them feel that way?
  • Who makes them feel that way?
  • What are their reasons (arguments) for feeling that way?

Strategy Questions

  • How can I find common ground with this audience?
  • How can I present myself as someone they will listen to? (ethos)
  • If they feel negatively about my argument, how can I make them feel more positively?
  • What emotion would put them in a better state of mind for my purposes? (This is where Aristotle’s threefold analysis comes to bear: state of mind, target of emotion, and grounds for emotion )
  • How can I present my arguments in a way that will make them more receptive?
  • How can I make sure I don’t make them feel even more negatively?
  • How can I be persuasive with this audience without compromising my own beliefs and values?

My analysis here goes a bit beyond Aristotle. Aristotle is basically talking about creating emotional states that are conducive to the speaker’s argument. I am expanding on this idea to include an analysis of the audience’s present state of mind.  The whole process looks like this:

  • What does my audience feel now?
  • Is this emotion conducive or not conducive to the reception of my argument?
  • What emotional state would be more conducive?
  • How can I create that emotional state?

The most important feature of all this analysis, however, is to help students think more deeply about their audiences. In many ways, the audience is an important writing partner that helps us know what to say and how to say it. The audience is an essential part of the creative process.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos: Heidegger on Aristotle

I have been reading Deep Rhetoric: Philosophy, Reason, Violence, Justice, Wisdom by James Crosswhite in preparation for teaching it next quarter in my “Composition Theory” seminar. I have taught Crosswhite’s earlier book, The Rhetoric of Reason, for many years. In that book, Crosswhite articulates a theory based on Chaim Perelman’s The New Rhetoric that the validity of an argument depends not on true premises, sound logic and justifiable conclusions, but on the quality of the audience that will accept it. One of the interesting conclusions of this book was that most logical fallacies have to do with a particular audience mistaking itself for a universal one. Interesting stuff! In the new book, I was expecting an updated version of the same theory. In fact, there is much more and it is quite different.

Back in the early ’90’s, when I was at Cal State L.A., I did a writing workshop for the philosophy department. A member of the faculty, Henry Mendell, told me that philosophers read every word that Aristotle wrote, except the Rhetoric. I was a bit stunned because the Rhetoric was dear to my heart. I defended the Rhetoric, and finally he said, “Well, maybe Californians have to read the Rhetoric, but New Yorkers don’t because they know how to argue.” Recently I met Henry again and I reminded him of his remarks. He looked chagrined and said that he had changed his mind and that Aristotle’s Rhetoric was now read carefully. This may be because although Heidegger lectured on the Rhetoric in 1924, the lectures were not published until 2002, long after my first conversation with Henry.

Deep Rhetoric

Crosswhite’s earlier book is an attempt to reconcile rhetoric with certain branches of philosophy, especially those dealing with logic and argumentation. The new book is an exploration of what a “deep rhetoric” might be, a project that is also an attempt to reconcile philosophy and rhetoric, but on a more fundamental scale. This project is largely informed by two sources: Plato’s concept of rhetoric, expressed in the Phaedrus, as an art of leading the soul to truth by means of words, and Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, expressed in the aforementioned lectures from 1924. Crosswhite defines a “deep rhetoric” thusly:

Rhetoric is a form of human transcendence, a way we open ourselves to the influence of what is beyond ourselves and become receptive, a way we participate in a larger world and become open to the lives of others, a way we learn and change. Rhetoric is also a way the world and others become open to us, open to our giving and our participation; it is a way we teach, a way we change our common conditions, a way we form relationships and bear the lives and experiences of other people. (Crosswhite 17)

Logos

Crosswhite’s definition is a very broad definition of rhetoric. This is not Aristotle’s art of “finding the available means of persuasion.” Crosswhite uses a lot of Heideggerian terminology to expand and comment on this definition, terminology which I will try to avoid here. However, the key term above is “transcendence,” the ability to transcend our selves and know others and the world. Our ability to do this is given by logos, which provides structure and makes the world intelligible. Language is logos, but logos goes beyond language to other ways of communicating and understanding.

Pathos

In this model, logos provides structure and intelligibility, but pathos provides motive and energy. Crosswhite says, “There is no understanding without pathos” (183). Logos and pathos are inextricably linked.

For example, if I am going to say something to someone about something, I need to be interested in that something and in that person. Interest, engagement, caring, are all forms of pathos. And to attend to it, the audience has to also engage. Without pathos, nothing happens, no speech, no action.

Ethos

What about ethos? In this model, ethos does not appear to have a primary role in constituting transcendence, perhaps because the Aristotelian concept is about constructing a self, rather than going beyond the self. However, ethos functions as a complement to pathos. Crosswhite says,

What is essential for a deep rhetoric is that when it comes to being a speaker, one is a speaker as such because an audience has given this attention and the speaker has received it. That is, the being of the speaker is given by an audience. The speaker’s being circulates, is, in this process of giving and receiving between the audience and speaker. (287)

In this model, ethos is a two-way street, not just a construct crafted to persuade an audience. To an extent, the audience creates the speaker.

Pedagogical Implications

What are the pedagogical implications of this view of ethos, logos, and pathos? Well, clearly logos and pathos are not separate tools to be pulled out of the rhetorical toolbox as needed. It is also clear that pathos is not some kind of fallacious appeal to be used in dire necessity with an ignorant audience. There is no logos without interest, caring, and engagement. There is thus no understanding without pathos. We have to consider both structure and motivation.

If ethos is a two-way dynamic relationship between a speaker who receives speakership from an audience, our concept of ethos is much richer and less contrived. The question becomes not “What kind of speaker do I need to be to persuade this audience?” but “What kind of speaker will this audience cause/allow me to be?”

However, the most important shift in this model, in my view, is from defining rhetoric as an art of persuasion to seeing rhetoric as an art of knowing the other. I have felt for some time now that Aristotelian rhetoric was insufficient to deal with our media and our politics. In an age of media echo chambers, information bubbles, political silos, and tribalism, an art of knowing the other appears to be just what we need.  It may even save us from ourselves.

ERWC Leadership Event 2017: Speech

We have just completed our ERWC Leadership Conferences for 2017.  The Sacramento event was held at the Hilton Sacramento Arden West Hotel, June 20-21.  Unfortunately, the hotel’s air conditioning system failed at about 11:00 am, so the first day sessions were conducted under less than ideal conditions and the second day sessions were curtailed.  The Los Angeles event, at the Westin Los Angeles Airport June 27-28, ran much more smoothly.  I would like to thank the presenters, the support staff, and the participants for a wonderful event.

I will post on other aspects of the conferences and ERWC 3.0 in the next few days, but today I want to post the speech I gave at both events.


I am sorry I missed the leadership events last year. I had a scheduling conflict. I was in London. My wife and I had been invited to visit her brother, who is an executive in a large scientific instruments company, while he was temporarily stationed in the U.K. The company had rented a lovely home for him in Beaconsfield, an upscale suburb, where we were invited to stay. As it happened, we were in London just before the Brexit referendum and returned from the continent just after it.

The difference was palpable. The city we had left was a vibrant, optimistic, multicultural metropolis. The city we returned to was downcast, confused, stunned. My brother-in-law said he canceled several multi-million dollar deals the day after Brexit, and six months later he was working from Shanghai. The United Kingdom is still in turmoil and the future is difficult to predict.

How did this happen? I would say that it was largely a matter of rhetoric.

The city of London voted largely to remain in the European Union (though I did see “Leave” signs even in Beaconsfield) as did Scotland, Northern Ireland, and most young people, who saw the right to freely travel and live in Europe as a path toward adventure, education and jobs. The rest of England and Wales voted to leave.

I happened to talk to some Welsh soccer fans in Paris, who kept reminding me that they were Welsh, not English. They said that they had voted Leave because of immigrants, whom they felt were getting benefits they had not earned and did not deserve. Membership in the E.U. and the required free movement of people from any E.U. member country to any other has brought lots of Polish and Eastern European people to the U.K. to work in service jobs and to harvest agricultural products. Many British people feel that immigrants from elsewhere in the E.U. are taking away jobs, getting undeserved benefits, diluting British culture with foreign ways, and committing crimes. Sound familiar? So the solution is to exit the E.U. But that also means giving up free access to the European market, which is the foundation of most economic activity in the U.K.

The following image represents two of the main arguments that Boris Johnson, former Mayor of London and a leader of the “Leave” campaign, made to support Brexit:

3000

The slogan on the sign sounds like a simple way to improve the National Health Service, but it ignores all the other benefits that might accrue from E.U. membership. The url on the podium, voteleavetakecontrol.org, makes another simplistic argument that focuses on immigration, but simply ignores the issue of the free market. Johnson, a flamboyant and popular leader, also argued that the U.K. could “Have our cake and eat it,” implying that Britain could negotiate a deal to control immigration and still have access to the free market. He never explained why the E.U. would agree to that.

The arguments for “Remain,” on the other hand, were mostly economic, cast in terms of currency fluctuations, trade figures, economic forecasts. Many arguments sound like this paragraph from an article in the Business Insider:

If the pound is weak, again, it will make it more expensive for us to trade. Equities are already tumbling because extra costs will hurt not just Britain’s biggest companies’ pockets, but also how they can afford to pay staff. Morgan Stanley points out that a Brexit would devastate a number of markets within just six months.

From Here is an avalanche of reasons why Britain should stay in the EU, Business Insider Jun. 16, 2016

The average citizen without a corporate job or any investments in stocks would be unmoved by this rhetoric.

Aristotle says, “The duty of rhetoric is to deal with such matters as we deliberate upon without arts or systems to guide us, in the hearing of persons who cannot take in at a glance a complicated argument, or follow a long chain of reasoning.” In other words, rhetoric is for matters about which we cannot have certainty, and for audiences who would not understand the proofs we might give if we had them.

Boris Johnson and the rest of the Leave campaign were clearly more persuasive to the electorate in this regard, providing a simple, appealing logos for people who were disinclined to follow complicated arguments. And notice how this logos appeals to both a simple logic and a nationalistic pathos: “Let’s stop giving money to foreigners and spend it on our own health care! Let’s take control of our borders and keep the foreigners out!” On the other hand, the message from the Remain campaign is coldly logical: “If we do this, we will lose money.”

And here we come to my main point in discussing Brexit: the speaker who masters the art of understanding the audience and the rest of the rhetorical situation, and in crafting a message that moves both the emotions and the intellect of this audience in this context, is the one who will be most persuasive. Too often, we are tempted to see Aristotle’s three appeals as discreet elements that can be recognized and sorted into boxes. In fact, they work together seamlessly and harmoniously. Logos alone is rarely persuasive in a public forum.

In your packets you will find a new version of my rather ancient article “Three Ways to Persuade.” In this revision, I have attempted to connect the appeals together, mostly through the conduit of audience. In the updating and re-envisioning of ERWC that is currently ongoing, this is one of the main themes. We want to provide students and teachers with a more subtle, flexible, and useful set of rhetorical tools, for both analyzing and writing texts. Even after 14 years of growth and success, this is an exciting time to be involved in ERWC. And now I want to turn things over to my colleagues Meline Akashian and Nelson Graff for an introduction to more of these rhetorical tools.

 

Aristotle’s Three Appeals

Some of my colleagues have indicated that my previous post on this subject, “Argument Versus Persuasion: A False Dichotomy,” might not have been entirely persuasive to my audience of teachers.  Too many terms!  Dialectic, argument, rhetoric, and persuasion all mixed up!  What the heck is dialectic anyway?  How did that get in there?  What does an argument between Aristotle and Plato have to do with teaching students today?

Oh my!  I’d better try again.

I will assert again that argument, in the form of logos, is a part of rhetoric and one of the strategies of persuasion.  Aristotle defines the three modes of persuasion as follows:

  • Ethos: the personal character of the speaker.
  • Pathos: putting the audience into a certain frame of mind.
  • Logos: the proof, or apparent proof, of the words themselves.

It is tempting when doing rhetorical analysis to go through a text labeling the parts of it that construct an ethos, the parts that create emotional effects, and the parts that function as part of a logical argument.  However, it is not so simple.  A single element can function in more than one way, and the relationships between the terms can be complex.

For example, a website called “Defenders of Wildlife” has a “Fact Sheet” about the endangered San Joaquin kit fox that features a cute picture of a young fox with the caption, “The San Joaquin kit fox is declining or has become locally extinct in much of the species historic range.  You can help save them.  Adopt a kit fox.”  The name “Defenders of Wildlife” creates a strong, heroic ethos for the writers of the website.  The web page is full of facts about the kit fox and its life, which function both to create the impression that the writers are knowledgeable about the fox (ethos) and to make the argument (logos) that the cute little fox (pathos) is endangered.  Finally, the reader is asked to help save the kit fox by adopting one, a call for action that is based more on pathos than logos, but involves both.

Here is a slightly more complex example.  Rhetoric scholar Sharon Crowley, in a very academic essay calling for a change in the way writing is taught in schools, wants to argue that there are two basic ways to learn a new skill: by doing it (practice) or by learning principles about it (theory).

The Greek word from which theory is derived originally designated a spectator who sat in the furthermost rows of the theater, literally “observing from afar.”  When a teacher sets out to teach any practice, if she chooses not to demonstrate it, her other alternative is to stand back from it and generalize about it.  As Aristotle notes in the beginning of his Rhetoric, people can pick up skill in any practice simply by doing it; but it is also the case that the causes of success in any art can be investigated and reduced to principles.  These principles can then be transmitted to other learners.

When I was growing up in the sandhills of Nebraska, my mother devoted nearly every Saturday afternoon to making cinnamon rolls.  One Saturday, when I was old enough to be interested in such things, I asked my mother to teach me how to make cinnamon rolls.  She obliged me by talking through the procedure while demonstrating it. You take a pinch of this, she said, and add it to a couple of palmfuls of that, knead the result until you’re satisfied that its consistency is about right, let it set until it smells as though the yeast has finished working, and so on.  (Crowley 330) 

Crowley was not successful in learning to make cinnamon rolls in this way.  She needed precise measurements and procedures that did not depend on years of experience to make judgments about such things as when the yeast has finished working.  She concludes that the problem with teaching by example is that when the teacher is absent, the student is on his or her own, but that if the student knows the theory, he or she can re-create the practice.  Fortunately, her sister had written down some measurements and other information, so together they were able to re-create the cinnamon rolls.  They needed both theory and practice.

Crowley is making a logical argument about teaching.  She cites the authority of Aristotle as support for her argument, implying that she is with Aristotle on this point, thus enhancing her ethos.  Then suddenly, she launches into the example of the cinnamon rolls.  This example illustrates her argument, so it functions as part of logos, but it is also a story about working in the kitchen with her mother, and later her sister.  It’s a homey story about family memories, and thus might seem to some readers to be too personal and emotional to fit in as part of an argument in an article in an academic journal.

In addition to supporting the point about two different kinds of learning, the cinnamon roll story creates emotional effects that are clearly designed to affect the reader.  However, different readers will have different sorts of emotions.  Some will remember their own cooking experiences with their mothers and identify with the author.  Some will think that it is a brilliant illustration of a difficult concept.  Others may react in surprise, maybe even disgust.  “Cinnamon rolls!  My word! What kind of scholarly article is this?”  Some readers might even become hungry and start thinking about lunch.  Conflicting reactions from the audience are part of the risk of using pathos as a persuasive strategy.

However, it is also clear that both the type of ethos that will be effective and the type of emotional response that the writer will get from the audience both depend on the type of audience the writer has.  Ethos and pathos are not static categories, but are in a relationship.  They affect one another.

Let’s say that ethos refers to the perspective of the writer, including all of the strategies he or she uses to construct a particular impression of his or her character and abilities, as well as the persona that is created by these strategies.  Pathos refers to the perspective of the reader, to all the effects the text has on the reader, especially emotional responses, and the strategies used to create those effects. However, the reader may experience an emotional response—suspicion, distrust, admiration, hatred, or even love—that is created in part by the ethos constructed by the writer.   It is also possible that a writer like Crowley might use the effects of pathos to select or reject certain kinds of readers.  She may want the kind of reader who appreciates a connection between the classroom and the kitchen, and not want the reader who thinks cinnamon rolls don’t belong in a serious article.

The writer and the reader have a strong relationship that is “mediated” by the text.  The text is in the middle, so it “mediates” the relationship, creating it, channeling it, controlling it.  The writer has an audience, a group of readers, in mind, and a purpose for writing.  He or she writes a text that serves that purpose and meets the needs of that audience.  However, the writer cannot anticipate every reader or every response.  Readers are individuals who question and talk back to a text.  The relationship is not a one-way street.

Now what about logos?  It is tempting to limit logos to logical arguments.  After all, the Greek word logos, which actually means “word” or “words,” is the root of our word “logic.”  However, even Aristotle thought that rhetorical arguments were different from the kinds of arguments you find in science.  He called rhetorical arguments “enthymemes,” and noted that they contained unstated premises or assumptions that were generally accepted by both the speaker and the audience.   These assumptions were rooted in the world view of the culture, shared beliefs and values that generally went unquestioned unless someone like Socrates was around to question them, or when the society encountered people from a different culture.  For example when a U.S. President talks to the American people about “freedom” there are shared assumptions that the sources of freedom are in certain forms of democracy and a capitalist economic system.  Similarly, an advertisement for a particular car will probably not present arguments about the advantages of car ownership.  Everyone already knows what they are.  These arguments do not need to be spelled out.

We all live in both a physical world and a social world, which is a world of values, beliefs and practices.    The arguments of logos can be seen as representations of the nature of the physical or social world and the relationships between things or individuals in those worlds.   The writer and the reader live in a shared world, but they may see it differently.  One of the main purposes for writing is to get the reader to see the world in the same way the writer does.

The three terms can thus be seen as positions in a three way relationship between the writer, the reader, and the world, mediated by the text.   Rhetorician James Kinneavy places the terms in what he calls the “communication triangle” and updates Aristotle’s language with terms from information theory.  He says, “Basic to all uses of language are a person who encodes a message, the signal (language) which carries the message, the reality to which the message refers, and the decoder (receiver of the message)” (Kinneavy 19).  From this point of view, Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion become a larger more abstract model of the communication process itself.  Combining Aristotle’s terms with Kinneavy’s insight, we might draw the communications triangle something like this:

communicationa triangle

Click the image to enlarge

From this model we can see that every act of communication contains all three appeals. Some texts, from the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) for example, emphasize logos and minimize ethos and pathos.  However, every text has a writer and a reader and refers to a world.  All texts have all three appeals, to varying degrees.

Works Cited

“Fact Sheet: San Joaquin Kit Fox.” Defenders of Wildlife. Web. 22 Dec. 2012. Web.

<http://www.defenders.org/san-joaquin-kit-fox/basic-facts>

Crowley, Sharon. “A Plea for the Revival of Sophistry.” Rhetoric Review, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Spring, 1989), pp. 318-334.

Kinneavy, James L. A Theory of Discourse. New York: Norton, 1971. Print.

Argument Versus Persuasion: A False Dichotomy

The first Common Core Anchor Standard for Text Types and Purposes states that students should be able to “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.”  Although Aristotle’s three persuasive appeals–ethos, logos, and pathos— have been part of English Language Arts standards for some time, and while persuasive techniques are mentioned elsewhere in the Common Core documents, this statement has been interpreted by many to emphasize the teaching of argument at the expense of persuasion. Let me make this clear from the start: Argument is not opposed to persuasion.  Argument (logos) is a part of persuasion.

In part, this issue goes all the way back to a disagreement between Plato and his student Aristotle about the nature of truth and the role of rhetoric.  In Plato’s Gorgias, Socrates gets the sophist Gorgias to agree that rhetoric persuades to belief, not knowledge.  Socrates argues that there is truth, and that one arrives at the truth through the question and answer method called “dialectic,” demonstrated by Socrates in the Platonic dialogs.  He goes so far as to argue that rhetoric is akin to “cookery,” in that just as a cook can make unhealthy ingredients taste good, rhetoric can make unwise ideas seem appealing.  For Socrates, at least in the Gorgias, dialectic is the true art and rhetoric is no art at all.

However, Aristotle disagrees.  He responds in his work on rhetoric by stating that  rhetoric is the counterpart of dialectic, defining rhetoric as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” Plato is the idealist.  Aristotle is more practical.  It is also important to note that Plato did not win this argument.  Philosophers may still argue about whether there is absolute truth or not, but life, and rhetoric, go on.

In response to Plato’s argument that rhetoric persuades to belief, but not knowledge, Aristotle says that “argument based on knowledge implies instruction, and there are people whom one cannot instruct.”  Aristotle also says that “The duty of rhetoric is to deal with such matters as we deliberate upon without arts or systems to guide us, in the hearing of people who cannot take in at a glance a complicated argument or a long chain of reasoning.”  In other words, the rigor and certainty of dialectic is appropriate for science, for an expert audience, and for particular narrow purposes.  The persuasive techniques of rhetoric are for almost everyone and everything else.

While Aristotle favors logos and logical argument, he admits that appeals to the character of the speaker (ethos) and appeals to the emotions of the audience (pathos) are legitimate and necessary aspects of persuasion.   Ethos and pathos should not be classified as logical fallacies or artifices of deception.

Because most audiences lack the knowledge or inclination to sit through or follow long chains of reasoning such as one might find in a scientific paper, in most speeches and written texts the arguments used are truncated and based on assumed premises or premises based on probability rather than proof.  Aristotle calls arguments of this nature “enthymemes.”  Such arguments are clearly part of the techniques of persuasion.  They are the bread and butter of nearly all reasoned discourse.  This is the kind of discourse the writers of the Common Core are thinking of when they ask that students be able to  “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.”  We want students to be able to write for all audiences, not just scientific ones.

Thus those who advise teachers trying to implement the Common Core standards to “teach argument, not persuasion,” or classify ethos and pathos as persuasion, but logos as argument, are promulgating fundamental misunderstandings of the nature of both rhetoric and the Common Core.  They are also not helping students learn to write and succeed in college.  Although most students will write a few scientific lab reports in which logos dominates, they will also have to write essays, application letters, proposals, case studies, research papers, emails, and many other types of documents that require the full range of rhetorical ability.  They will also be subjected to advertising, propaganda, partisan political pieces, and other discourse in which they are subject to rhetorical appeals.

Here is a thought experiment demonstrating an inappropriate use of purely logos-driven discourse. Imagine a political leader trying to manage a serious, complicated crisis without using all aspects of rhetoric.  Let’s take as an example the near meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan following a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.  Let’s imagine that Prime Minster Naoto Kan appeared on television after the accident and said the following:

Analyses performed as of 1 June 2011 indicate that at unit 1, the loss of cooling caused the temperature of the uranium dioxide fuel pellets to reach melting point (2 800°C) very shortly after the loss of all electrical power. When this occurred, the analyses have predicted that the molten fuel relocated from the core region to the lower reactor pressure vessel (RPV) head early on 12 March. The molten fuel then caused damage (small leaks) to the lower head. When cooling was later resumed, the temperature of the molten fuel dropped and further damage to the lower head of the RPV was prevented. However, the small leaks in the unit 1 lower RPV head require that water continue to be injected into the RPV at a rate higher than otherwise necessary to remove decay heat and to keep the fuel cooled. Updated analyses performed for units 2 and 3 indicate that significant fuel damage occurred, with the possibility that much of the fuel in these units also melted.     (5)

Imagine that he continued on in this fashion to deliver a complete nine-page engineering report on the state of the six nuclear reactors at the plant.  This is the discourse of a nuclear engineer.  It is logos-driven, objective, neutral, and very useful in its place.  However, it is entirely inappropriate for the rhetorical situation we are imagining.  The people of Japan are afraid and perhaps angry.  They want to know that something is being done, that their leaders care and are competent to take care of the situation.  Ignoring ethos and pathos would be a political and social disaster.

Fortunately, the Prime Minister did not give this speech.  This paragraph came from a report on Fukushima by the Nuclear Energy Association (NEA).

The new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, also has to deal with the Fukushima situation.  In a speech given to the Japanese Diet on October 15, 2013, he says:

Every day at the Prime Minister’s Office, I eat rice grown in Fukushima. It has a flavor that is acclaimed by all. It is my hope that consumers taste Fukushima’s safe and delicious agricultural and fishery products for themselves, without being confused due to radiation-related rumors.

This is clearly an ethos-related move.  He is establishing solidarity with the people of Fukushima, and demonstrating to one and all that he is not afraid of radiation in their products.  Later in the speech he makes a move toward pathos:

I received a letter from a young mother who is from Fukushima. Her letter conveys her love for her child that was born in the year the earthquake disaster happened, as well as her inner thoughts as she anguishes over whether or not to return to her home community of Fukushima. She ended her letter by saying, “My husband and I are now thinking that we will return to Fukushima. We intend to live on that land as a family, the three of us. We decided this because we thought that Fukushima has no future unless the younger generation lives there as we will.”

Can any politician avoid making these rhetorical moves?  Do we really want a generation of students who can only write like engineers?  However, we don’t have to choose between teaching argument and persuasion.  They are not in opposition.

Here is a link to a short article, “Three Ways to Persuade: Integrating the Three Appeals” that can be used to help students understand ethos, logos, and pathos.