What is a Rhetorical Argument?

Posted by Splice, Essay Tips Chief Writer

What is a Rhetorical Argument? A Rhetorical Argument is basically a persuasive argument that uses one or a combination of its three distinct "appeals": Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. An argument that makes use of Ethos appeals to the character of the speaker. An argument that makes use of Pathos appeals to emotion. Lastly, an argument that makes use of Logos appeals to reason. In general, a Rhetorical Argument may make use of one or a combination of any of the appeals. Here are several examples of the three distinct appeals commonly used in Rhetorical Arguments.

ETHOS
To use Ethos is to appeal to the character of the speaker. That is, a claim may be argued and may be supported through a reference to the reputation, character or authority of the speaker. For example,

I will never steal from the cash register because I have been employee of the month for three consecutive months now. As far as our colleagues know, I am a kind and religious person who has been very helpful to my fellow employees in this restaurant. It does not make sense to accuse me of stealing the money.


PATHOS
To use Pathos is to appeal to the emotions of the reader or the audience. The primary goal is to persuade the reader or the audience through the use of key words or language that appeal to the feelings of a person. For example,

John will never steal from the cash register. If he did, he will be fired from work and will be sent to jail. Who will now finance the needs of his family? His wife does not have a job. He has three little kids who need the guidance of a loving father. Without John by their side, they will grow fatherless and, God knows, they may turn into homeless kids. John should not be suspected of committing the crime.


LOGOS
To use Logos is to use reason to persuade or to make an argument. Typically, it makes use of deductive or inductive arguments to prove a point. For example,

(Logos using a deductive argument)
Chris was alone in the office at 8 o'clock in the evening. The crime took place at around 30 minutes past 8PM. Therefore, there is reason to become suspicious that Chris stole the money from the cash register.

(Logos using an inductive argument)
Chris has a previous theft record in the city police. He said the other day that he barely had any money left in his bank account and that he had no money to buy food. The security cameras also reveal that he was inside the store premises the night the crime took place. Therefore, there is reason to become suspicious that Chris stole the money from the cash register.


Ethos, Pathos and Logos are three of the argument types usually used in a Rhetorical Argument. Most persuasive arguments using the rhetorical approach make use of a combination from any of three argument types. You may also want to know more about Classical Arguments, or how to use Ethos, or how to use logos in a Rhetorical argument.

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