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Not to be confused with Pothos or Bathos.

Pathos (/ˈpθɵs/; plural: pathea; Greek: πάθος, for "suffering" or "experience;" adjectival form: 'pathetic' from παθητικός) represents an appeal to the audience's emotions.[1] Pathos is a communication technique used most often in rhetoric (where it is considered one of the three modes of persuasion, alongside ethos and logos), and in literature, film and other narrative art.

Emotional appeal can be accomplished in a multitude of ways:

Relation to Logos[edit]

The mode of pathos is, more often than not, construed as fundamentally emotive, by extension leaving logos unemotive.

Another interpretation is that logos invokes emotions relevant to the issue at hand, whereas pathos invokes emotions that have no bearing on the issue, in that the pathē they stimulate lack, or at any rate are not shown to possess, any intrinsic connection with the point at issue.[2]

Aristotle’s text on Pathos[edit]

In Aristotle's Rhetoric, he identifies three artistic modes of persuasion, one of which was “awakening emotion (pathos) in the audience so as to induce them to make the judgment desired.”[3] In the first chapter he includes the way in which “men change their opinion in regard to their judgment. As such emotions have specific causes and effects” (Book 2.1.2-3).[3] Aristotle identifies pathos as one of the three essential modes of proof by his statement that “to understand the emotions---that is, to name them and describe them, to know their causes and the way in which they are excited (1356a24-1356a25).[3] Aristotle posits that, alongside pathos, the speaker must deploy good ethos in order to establish credibility (Book 2.1.5-9).[3] Aristotle details what individual emotions are useful to a speaker (Book 2.2.27).[3] In doing so, Aristotle focused on whom, toward whom, and why stating that "It is not enough to know one or even two of these points; unless we know all three, we shall be unable to arouse anger in anyone. The same is true of the other emotions." He also arranges the emotions with one another so that they may counteract one another. For example, one would pair sadness with happiness (Book 2.1.9).[3] With this understanding, Aristotle argues for the rhetor to understand the entire situation of goals and audiences to decide which specific emotion the speaker would exhibit or call upon in order to persuade the audience.

Alternative views on Pathos[edit]

Scholars have discussed the different interpretations of Aristotle’s views of rhetoric and his philosophy. Some believe that it is actually a myth, that Aristotle invented it entirely. In the second chapter of Rhetoric, Aristotle’s view on pathos changes from the use in discourse to the understanding of emotions and their effects. William Fortenbaugh pointed out that for the Sophist Gorgias, “Being overcome with emotion is analogous to rape.”[4] Aristotle opposed this view and created a systematic approach to pathos. Fortenbaugh argues that Aristotle’s systematic approach to emotional appeals “depends upon correctly understanding the nature of individual emotions, upon knowing the conditions favorable to, the objects of, and the grounds for individual emotions”.[4] Modern philosophers were typically more skeptical of the use of emotions in communication, with political theorists such as John Locke hoping to extract emotion from reasoned communication entirely. George Campbell presents another view unlike the common systematic approach of Aristotle. Campbell explored whether appeals to emotion or passions would be “an unfair method of persuasion,” identifying seven circumstances to judge emotions: probability, plausibility, importance, proximity in time, connection of place, relations to the persons concerned, and interest in the consequences.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Strategic Business Communication: For Leaders - Robyn Walker - Google Books. 
  2. ^ Robert Wardy, "Mighty Is the Truth and It Shall Prevail?", in Essays on Aristotle's Rhetoric, Amélie Rorty (ed), University of California Press, 1996, ISBN 0-520-20228-7, p. 64.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Aristotle, and George Alexander Kennedy. Aristotle On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse. New York: Oxford UP, 1991. Print. p.119
  4. ^ a b Fortenbaugh, W. W. Aristotle's Rhetoric on Emotions. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1974. Print. p.232.
  5. ^ Campbell, George, and Lloyd F. Bitzer. The Philosophy of Rhetoric. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1963. Print.p.81-89.

External links[edit]