Ethos, pathos, and logos are modes of persuasion or rhetoric appeals that help to convince your audience. The terms were coined by Aristotle. Accordingly, these three concepts are persuasion tools that help a writer or speaker to make their argument appeal to the audience.
What is Ethos?
Ethos is an appeal to the authority or credibility of the presenter. Thus, this mainly focuses on the writer’s/speaker’s trustworthiness. The writer’s or speaker’s knowledge on the field, his or her experience and expertise play a major role in establishing ethos. Moreover, this depends on how well the presenter convinces the audience that he or she is qualified to speak on the subject. For example, think of a toothpaste advertisement that relies on a dentist’s statement. This type of advertisement is an appeal to ethos.
Moreover, Aristotle has named three categories of ethos:
- Phronesis: useful skills & wisdom
- Arete: virtue, goodwill
- Eunoia: goodwill towards the audience
What is Pathos?
Pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotions. This focuses attention on the values and beliefs of the intended audience. Moreover, this is a powerful appeal, if you use it well. However, most speeches or writings do not solely depend on pathos.
You can create pathos with devices like metaphors and similes; even a passionate delivery or a simple claim that something is unjust can give rise to pathos. Moreover, pathos often appeals to the audience’s capacity for empathy using an imaginable story. Below is an example of pathos from Martin Luther King’s famous speech: I have a dream.
“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
What is Logos?
Logos is a logical appeal or an appeal to reason. The term logic actually originates from logos. Logos mainly focuses on the message or the content of the speech. Thus, a speaker that attempts to use logos always use facts and figures to support his claims. Moreover, logos draw attention to internal consistency and clarity within its argument.
In an objective sense, logos is the most powerful appeal out of the three modes of persuasion. However, as human beings are emotional beings, all three appeals, ethos, pathos, and logos, have an equally important effect on us.
The following syllogistic argument in ‘The Art of Rhetoric’ by Aristotle is an example of logos.
“All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.”
What is the Difference Between Ethos Pathos and Logos?
Ethos is an appeal to the authority or credibility of the presenter whereas pathos is an appeal to the emotions of the audience, and logos is a logical appeal or appeal to reason. Thus, this is the key difference between ethos pathos and logos. Moreover, ethos involves convincing the audience of the character or credibility of the presenter while pathos involves convincing the audience of an argument by creating an emotional response, and logos involves convincing the audience by reason. Furthermore, another difference between ethos pathos and logos is the way of appeal. Ethos pays attention to the presenter’s expertise, knowledge and experience in the field, and pathos focuses on arousing the feelings and imagination of the audience while logos involves presenting facts, information and evidence.
Below is an infographic on the difference between ethos pathos and logos.
Summary – Ethos vs Pathos vs Logos
In summarizing the difference between ethos pathos and logos; ethos, pathos, and logos are modes of persuasion or rhetoric appeals that help to convince your audience. However, the key difference between ethos pathos and logos is that ethos is an appeal to the authority or credibility of the presenter whereas pathos is an appeal to the emotions of the audience, and logos is a logical appeal or appeal to reason.
1.“Ethos.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Dec. 2018. Available here
2.“Modes of Persuasion.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Jan. 2019. Available here
3.“Pathos Examples.” Math. Available here