The basis of public discourse comes to us from Ancient Greece. Aristotle called it “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” Aristotle identified three elements to appeal to audiences:
- logos (λόγος) – the use of reasoning, either inductive or deductive, to construct an argument.
- pathos (πάθος) – the use of emotional appeals to alter the audience’s judgment through metaphor, amplification, storytelling, or presenting the topic in a way that evokes strong emotions in the audience.
- ethos (ἦθος) – Aristotle’s theory of character and how the character and credibility of a speaker can influence an audience to consider him/her to be believable— there being three qualities that contribute to a credible ethos: perceived intelligence, virtuous character, and goodwill.
Throughout history, rhetoric has been taught and studied as the basis of communication and its principles shape how writing is taught in universities throughout the world.
Now, more than ever, the art of rhetoric is needed to shape our nation’s civil discourse as the art of persuasion has been reduced to Tweeting. Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker writes, “Democracy runs on many things—power, money, political parties—but the power of persuasion is essential to it, and, when persuasion becomes poisoned, the rest gets poisoned, too.”