Aristotle's Rhetoric Theory Essay

2283 Words Apr 9th, 2011 10 Pages

Rhetorical Theory centered on the 4th Century BC writings of Aristotle. Aristotle’s Rhetoric

was the seminal work which was later revised by others including Kenneth Burke (dramatism)

and Toulmin (argument model). George A. Kennedy (2004) wrote the most respected,

authoritative and explanatory translation of Aristotle’s Rhetoric but an older translation by W.

Rhys Roberts (1954) is available online for free. Aristotle’s mentor, Plato (385 BC), reacted

to the unjust rule of Athenian culture, first defining rhetoric in negative terms as a dangerous

form of flattery and the persuasion of uneducated mobs of people in courts and assemblies.

Aristotle re-defined rhetoric in positive terms as the
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Ethos was a Greek word that applies to the guiding beliefs or ideas set forth by the

speaker. Aristotle taught that a speaker could inspire the audience’s confidence by creating an

image of himself as a person of good moral character with good sense and good will. Logos,

a Greek term used by Heraclitus (535-475 BC), refers to the principle of order and knowledge.

Aristotle used logos to refer to reasoned discourse. Pathos represented the appeal to the

audience’s emotions and passions as well as the speakers’ perception of his own character and


Boris Aberšek and Metka Kordigel Aberšek (2010) summarize, “Aristotle teaches us that a speaker’s ability to persuade is based on how well the speaker appeals to his or her audience in three different areas: ethos (ethical appeals), pathos (emotional appeals), and logos (logical appeals) (Lewis, 1991). These areas are what later rhetoricians have called the Rhetorical Triangle: ethos, pathos logos. Within the rhetorical triangle EQUILATERALITY is essential because its equal sides and angles illustrate the concept that all three appeals are equally important. Additionally, common rhetoric courses for engineers mostly forget to teach about the BALANCE of the logos, ethos and pathos. The dominance of one of the aspects (for instance logos) is likely to produce an argument that the readers will either find unconvincing or they

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