Four Elements of Rhetoric
M. Taylor
Wakulla High School
2009-10
Four Elements of Rhetoric
 Rhetoric
 Pathos
 Logos
 Ethos
Rhetoric
Is the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing
 Is sounding sincere
 Has the function not to persuade but to see the
available means of persuasion in each case -- Aristotle
 Is the amalgam of techniques that situates writing in a
specific time and place
 Is the understanding of the basic division between
what is communication and how it is communicated
Rhetoric
In academia, rhetoric is NOT sounding
pretentious
insincere
In academia, rhetoric means that you
understand the means and modes of
persuasion within your own discipline.
Pathos
 Appeals to the emotions and feelings of
the audience
 Arouses feelings of pity, compassionate
sympathy, tenderness, or sorrow
 Is the ability to evoke compassion in an
audience
Logos
 Appeals to logic, reasoning, and evidence
 Is the structure or organization of a writing
sample or style
 Implies numbers, polls, and other mathematical
or scientific data
 Makes the assumption that the audience and the
writer hold a foundation of shared beliefs
Ethos
 Appeals based on the trustworthiness of the
speaker or writer
 Establishes credibility through the character or
values peculiar to a specific person, culture, or
movement
 Is a component of argument that establishes a
person’s expertise or knowledge by what that
person says and not by what people know about
that person – Aristotle
Four Elements of Rhetoric
Rhetoric
It’s communication.
 Pathos
It’s the audience.
 Logos
It’s the writing.
 Ethos
It’s the writer.
Persuasion Through Rhetoric
Words, Phrases, and Simple Assertions
A psychological point about
rhetoric and suggestion...
It’s a fact that even fleeting impressions may have
measurable influence on behavior.
A psychological point about
rhetoric and suggestion...
It’s a fact that even fleeting impressions may have
measurable influence on behavior.
The operation of such influences may occur below the
threshold of consciousness.
A psychological point about
rhetoric and suggestion...
It’s a fact that even fleeting impressions may have
measurable influence on behavior.
The operation of such influences may occur below the
threshold of consciousness.
The positive and negative impressions made by use of
rhetorical devices, while they may sometimes seem trivial, can
have powerful and long-lasting effects.
A psychological point about
rhetoric and suggestion...
It’s a fact that even fleeting impressions may have
measurable influence on behavior.
The operation of such influences may occur below the
threshold of consciousness.
The positive and negative impressions made by use of
rhetorical devices, while they may sometimes seem trivial, can
have powerful and long-lasting effects.
Critical thinking addresses influence of rhetoric in two ways:
(1) helps identify attempts at non-argumentative persuasion
(2) helps check “spontaneous” beliefs and impulses
Euphemisms and Dysphemisms
Words or phrases that are substituted for
other words or phrases to put what is being
discussed in a more positive or negative light
Euphemisms and Dysphemisms
Words or phrases that are substituted for
other words or phrases to put what is being
discussed in a more positive or negative light
Euphemism: “Used cars” become “pre-owned vehicles”.
Dysphemism: “Music” becomes “noise”.
Euphemisms and Dysphemisms
Words or phrases that are substituted for
other words or phrases to put what is being
discussed in a more positive or negative light
Euphemism: “Used cars” become “pre-owned vehicles”.
Dysphemism: “Music” becomes “noise”.
Note: Reports and descriptions may convey pleasant or
unpleasant information without being euphemistic or
dysphemistic. It’s the quality of the language that matters.
Rhetorical Comparisons,
Definitions, and Explanations
Ways of speaking that depart positively or
negatively from a fair or neutral position
Problems of content, not of form
Rhetorical Comparisons,
Definitions, and Explanations
Ways of speaking that depart positively or
negatively from a fair or neutral position
Problems of content, not of form
Comparison: The American revolutionaries used
tactics similar to those employed by the Viet Cong.
Rhetorical Comparisons,
Definitions, and Explanations
Ways of speaking that depart positively or
negatively from a fair or neutral position
Problems of content, not of form
Comparison: The American revolutionaries used
tactics similar to those employed by the Viet Cong.
Definition: religion - the opiate of the people
Rhetorical Comparisons,
Definitions, and Explanations
Ways of speaking that depart positively or
negatively from a fair or neutral position
Problems of content, not of form
Comparison: The American revolutionaries used
tactics similar to those employed by the Viet Cong.
Definition: religion - the opiate of the people
Explanation: Franklin stayed in France throughout
the revolution because he was a celebrity there.
Stereotype
May function as an unexamined assumption
behind a premise (easily results in fallacy of
begging the question) or explanatory claim
(especially, as circular reasoning)
Stereotype
May function as an unexamined assumption
behind a premise (easily results in fallacy of
begging the question) or explanatory claim
(especially, as circular reasoning)
When directly expressed, takes the form of a
generalization
Stereotype
May function as an unexamined assumption
behind a premise (easily results in fallacy of
begging the question) or explanatory claim
(especially, as circular reasoning)
When directly expressed, takes the form of a
generalization
As expectation, may cause an observer to
ignore conflicting phenomena or supply
consistent details that never occurred
Innuendo
A suggestion that is made indirectly
Creates a negative impression (using indirect
language to create a positive impression is
usually better classed as understatement)
May be constructed by association with
something negative or by faint praise
Example: Prof. X? Is he the one who admitted that his
emotions influence his grading? (When speaker knows Prof.
X didn’t.)
Example: Student Y? Yes, I remember her. She satisfied the
minimum requirements of the course.
Loaded Question
Often a yes-no question or a false dilemma,
but could occur with any question form
Answering directly requires accepting or
presuming a questionable, hostile, or
unjustified assumption
May function similarly to innuendo
Loaded Question
Often a yes-no question or a false dilemma,
but could occur with any question form
Answering directly requires accepting or
presuming a questionable, hostile, or
unjustified assumption
May function similarly to innuendo
Example: Are you still abusing illegal drugs?
Example: Should we vote for the Democrat or the Republican
in this election?
Example: What were you thinking when you attempted to
steal that CD?
Weaseler
A word or phrase that deceptively weakens a
claim
Weaseler
A word or phrase that deceptively weakens a
claim
Not to be confused with careful qualification
Weaseler
A word or phrase that deceptively weakens a
claim
Not to be confused with careful qualification
Example: Save up to 40% (when typical savings will be less)
Example: It’s easy to go all the way...on the phone. (real ad!)
Downplayer
A word, phrase, or punctuation that subtly
diminishes a concept or weakens a claim
May overlap with weaseler
Downplayer
A word, phrase, or punctuation that subtly
diminishes a concept or weakens a claim
May overlap with weaseler
Example: Today’s “patriots” are just looking for a way to
make a quick buck in Iraq.
Downplayer
A word, phrase, or punctuation that subtly
diminishes a concept or weakens a claim
May overlap with weaseler
Example: Today’s “patriots” are just looking for a way to
make a quick buck in Iraq.
Example: I understand your wages are low, but it’s normal
for some full-time workers in any modern society to be below
the poverty line. (Notice how the individual’s particular
situation is effectively submerged.)
Downplayer
A word, phrase, or punctuation that subtly
diminishes a concept or weakens a claim
May overlap with weaseler
Example: Today’s “patriots” are just looking for a way to
make a quick buck in Iraq.
Example: I understand your wages are low, but it’s normal
for some full-time workers in any modern society to be below
the poverty line. (Notice how the individual’s particular
situation is effectively submerged.)
Example: Interest rates are at their the lowest point in years, though only
customers with excellent credit will qualify.
Horse Laugh/Ridicule/Sarcasm
An attempt to weaken a claim or undermine
credibility by making an idea or person
appear ridiculous
Horse Laugh/Ridicule/Sarcasm
An attempt to weaken a claim or undermine
credibility by making an idea or person
appear ridiculous
May make use of other devices, e.g.,
hyperbole, slippery slope
Horse Laugh/Ridicule/Sarcasm
An attempt to weaken a claim or undermine
credibility by making an idea or person
appear ridiculous
May make use of other devices, e.g.,
hyperbole, slippery slope
Example: One thing I can say for Schwarzenegger, I bet he’s
not a complainer. So now we won’t have to listen to a lot of
complaining from the governor’s office while Bush’s friends
are looting California.
Horse Laugh/Ridicule/Sarcasm
An attempt to weaken a claim or undermine
credibility by making an idea or person
appear ridiculous
May make use of other devices, e.g.,
hyperbole, slippery slope
Example: One thing I can say for Schwarzenegger, I bet he’s
not a complainer. So now we won’t have to listen to a lot of
complaining from the governor’s office while Bush’s friends
are looting California.
Example: You don’t like how the PATRIOT Act expands
police powers? How about the next time you need help, try
calling a hippie.
Hyperbole
Use of exaggeration to make an impression of
greater importance or deviation from
expectations
Hyperbole
Use of exaggeration to make an impression of
greater importance or deviation from
expectations
May show up in other devices, e.g., ridicule,
slippery slope, straw man, poisoning the well
Hyperbole
Use of exaggeration to make an impression of
greater importance or deviation from
expectations
May show up in other devices, e.g., ridicule,
slippery slope, straw man, poisoning the well
Example: What I need is a vehicle that can go anywhere.
Hyperbole
Use of exaggeration to make an impression of
greater importance or deviation from
expectations
May show up in other devices, e.g., ridicule,
slippery slope, straw man, poisoning the well
Example: What I need is a vehicle that can go anywhere.
Example: “While this framework does a good job of catering
to environmental extremists, it falls alarmingly short of
addressing the rising threat of wildfires facing our forests.”
(Rep. Wally Herger, on the Sierra Nevada Framework, 11/03)
Proof Surrogate
An assertion or strong suggestion that good
evidence exists somewhere out of reach to
support a claim
Proof Surrogate
An assertion or strong suggestion that good
evidence exists somewhere out of reach to
support a claim
May make use of listed, but unchecked or
unverifiable references
Proof Surrogate
An assertion or strong suggestion that good
evidence exists somewhere out of reach to
support a claim
May make use of listed, but unchecked or
unverifiable references
Example: Unnamed sources report that...
Example: Experts agree that...
Example: I read on the Internet that... (if used as evidence)
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