Logos, Pathos, Ethos – What is More Important? Why?

First, it is important that we define logos, pathos, and ethos, for the sake of these next couple of blogs.  Now, I must define the question that I will be investigating.  I am very curious as to what matters most out of the three pillars.  According to an article on the 3 Pillars of Public Speaking, Aristotle himself said that logos, the straight facts, should be most important.  However, is that actually true in our society?  In the United States for sure, it most likely is not.  In a country where a race between two prospective presidents can be extremely tight, the scales are tipped in the direction of the candidate who focuses more on building ethos and pathos.  This is because many voters may not know much about a candidate, but if he or she seems nice and relates well to the voter, then he or she will get the vote.  In discussions that I have had with various people regarding the recent presidential election, it often comes up, “well, Obama just seems like a nice guy who can connect well with others.”  Is this truly important when it comes to leading the country?

No matter how you might answer the previous question, it is quite clear that different people value different pillars – no one pillar can truly be titled ‘most important.’  Three different people could listen to the same speech and come up with different conclusions for different reasons.  Was the speaker logical in what he or she said?  Was he or she able to connect with the listeners on an emotional level?  Did the speaker seem like a great person?  All of these can be taken into account.

So what causes us to value one of the three pillars more than the other two?  Well, I believe that it has to do with how we generally think and process information by the various ways of knowing.  Pathos deals mainly with emotion, ethos involves initial perception, and logos involves reasoning as to whether or not something makes sense.  I believe that this is why Aristotle put the most emphasis on logos.  When an idea can be reasoned, it can be transferred from person to person.  Meanwhile, sense perceptions and emotions are not so easily transferred, and are different based on the person.  Aristotle recognized the importance of reasoning when it comes to public speaking, which is why he thought that facts should be the most important part of speaking.  As we all know, pathos and ethos are subjective.  How can we think that pillars that are completely subjective are more important than the one that is objective?  Facts are universal, emotions are not.  As a result, I could definitely conclude that I side with Aristotle in that ethos is the most important pillar.  However, I also see that Aristotle was correct in that simply building logos will not get you anywhere, as pathos and ethos are often needed to truly win people over.  Examples of this being the case and what this means for us as a society will be explored in the next blog post.  Stay tuned!


One comment

  1. Thanks for the link to my piece! You may enjoy some of my other work on rhetoric, oratory, and persuasion at http://www.RouseThem.com!

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