This is from Aristotle’s Rhetoric (some translations of the book are called The Art of Rhetoric). You can pick up any copy of the Rhetoric and find this passage at 1356a. It’s a bit lengthy, but well, it’s worth it.
This is where Aristotle introduces ethos, pathos, and logos in Chapter 2 of Book 1:
“Of the means of persuasion provided by way of speech, there are three forms, for some are in the character of the speaker [ethos], some consist in putting the hearer into a certain disposition [emotion, pathos], and some are present in the speech itself by showing or appearing to show something [logos]. Persuasion is by means of character [ethos] whenever the speech is spoken in such a way as to make the speaker trustworthy; for we are more persuaded, and more quickly, by decent people, about all matters without exception, and . . . character, one might say, has in it just about the most decisive means of persuasion. Persuasion is by means of the hearers whenever they are led on into passion [pathos] by the speech, for we do not render our judgments the same way when grieved as when delighted, or when friendly as when hostile . . . And persuasion is by means of speech whenever we show something that is true, or appears so, from things that are persuasive on each subject.”
Now, after typing all that out, I feel a sort of desire to say a bit about it.
One of the things that Aristotle implies here is that there is a sort of hierarchy of the three rhetorical appeals: ethos
is at the top, pathos
is next, and logos
is at the bottom. The reason for this is because when we hear a logical argument, we believe it, but our brains actually reason differently
depending on the emotional state that they–we–are in (hence Aristotle’s statement, “we do not render our judgments the same way when grieved as when delighted, or when friendly as when hostile”). New studies in Embodied Cognitive Science will actually confirm this idea that, at least to some degree, we reason from emotional states of mind (see, for example, Mark Johnson’s The Meaning of the Body
). Crazy, right? But there is an appeal that’s even higher than pathos
, and that’s ethos
is at the top of the hierarchy because ethos
is character–what and who a person is–and the emotions
strong as they are, are in the body
, both the body of the speaker and the listener, and the body is an essential part of who and what a person is. Additionally, when a speaker makes an emotional appeal on an audience, if the audience trusts that speaker, then the audience will transfer that trust to the emotions that they are now having! “[F]or we are more persuaded, and more quickly, by decent people, about all matters without exception.” Another translation of the same passage reads, “We believe good men more fully and more readily than others.” When it comes to ethos
is the key word.
So here’s the question. To what degree is trust an emotion?