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Logos with ethos and pathos

October 23rd, 2009 No comments

Miles, the company I work for, has a great slogan:

Miles – technical authority and warmth

It’s even better in Norwegian (Miles – faglig autoritet og varme) partly because of the wonderful and hard-to-translate word “faglig”, but also because it feels less grandiose, a bit more personal. Anyway, moving on…

In rhetoric – the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion (Webster’s Definition) – there are three principles classifying audience appeal; ethos, pathos and logos. I’ll leave the explanation of these three modes of persuasion to Aristotle himself:

The first kind depends on the personal character of the
speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of
mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words
of the speech itself.

That is:

Ethos: The persuader’s reputation, his or her honesty and moral authority.

Pathos: The passion in the delivery, the persuader’s ability to appeal emotionally to your target group.

Logos: The rational argument, the indisputable fact.

As Morten Teien so pedagogically explained to us during last weekend’s Miles Camp, drawing up (non-orthogonal) graphs to support him: The all too common mistake of including only one or two of these patterns promoting your ideas limits your chances of reaching through.  In our business it’s the Logos part that often gets all the legroom in our arguments, (wrongfully) celebrated as it is as our only source of light.

Including all three means of effecting persuasion greatly increases your chances of succeeding in your argumentation.

Ok, let’s backtrack then, to Miles and our slogan: In case you haven’t yet seen where I’m going, let me retranslate it for you, this time into “Rhetoric Greek English”:

Miles – Logos with ethos and pathos

So that’s why the slogan sits so well with us. It resonates with the ancient ideas of how to win through with your ideas, of how to persuade. I’ve always really liked that slogan, but I’ve just realized it’s a far better slogan than I was actually aware of. It’s genius!

And do you want to hear the best part? It’s true too!…

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