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Classical Principles of Argumentation

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The classical principles of argument; Ethos, Pathos, and Logos also called the “means of persuasion” or “rhetorical styles” were advanced by Aristotle (the Greek philosopher). They are meant primarily to appeal to or persuade an audience that one’s ideas are suitable or are more suitable compared to other person/persons’ ideas. Before embarking on the analysis of how these three principles are applied in the essay at hand, it is important to briefly understand what each of these three principles stand for when applied in an argument (Ramage & John, 1998).

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The principle of Ethos describes use of an ethical appeal or character credibility to convince the audience. People naturally tend to believe in a person they respect. An author will endeavor to present himself to the reader as being worth to like, respect, and be listened to. The Author must be authoritatively in charge of the subject paper. When referring to a speaker or author, Ethos can be found in the tone and style used to communicate the message and from how opposing views are perceived by the speaker/author. Personal reputation, expertise, and record will also have an impact on Ethos (appeal from credibility” (Ramage & John, 1998).

Pathos principle basically refers to use of emotion persuading techniques to appeal to the audience. It means appealing to the audiences’ sense of identity and self interests with an aim to take advantage of common biases. For instance, an author may deploy language or choose words that would have an effect on the emotional response of the reader. This may specifically imply an appeal to the sympathies and imagination of the audiences. The principle of Pathos therefore imply that the audience will not only be persuaded by the author/speaker, but they will also be emotionally persuaded to feel the same way hence they will tend to identify with the speaker’s opinion (Ramage & John, 1998).

Finally, the Logos principle of argument which means “logical” describes arguments which are based on reasoning. This may be either deductive reasoning or inductive reasoning or both. An Author who uses Logos principle therefore relies on facts to support or substantiate his thesis while avoiding fallacies. Put differently, Logos principle of argument depicts a situation where there is clarity of claim, internal consistency in information, logical reasons, and effective supporting evidence. In the next section, this paper examines how the Alexander Keyssar makes use of the three classical principles of argument in the essay “Reminders of poverty soon forgotten” (Ramage & John, 1998).

The author begins by exhibiting the Pathos principle when he describes the impact of the devastating Hurricane Katrina which left many “poor Americans” especially the “Black”, more hopeless and desperate who are portrayed to have been seen “carrying children and plastic bags containing a few meager possessions”. Regardless of recorded growth in the economy, the poor remained hopeless since they could do little to get them out of the floodwaters. The poor blacks have remained in substandard houses, only afford dilapidated schools, die in hospitals due to congestion and use poor transport amenities even after being taxed heavily. The creative word choice “poverty, race and Katrina” as used by the author appeal to the peoples emotions especially the poor. The victims of the Katrina underwent traumatizing experiences such as rape and looting by thugs among other violent treatment at refugee camps. These experiences, made them look isolated as if they were foreigners in their own land. More so, the victims were then to “blame themselves” for not having heed evacuation warnings (Keyssar, 2007, P.481).

Alexander Keyssar made use of Ethos argument principle by drawing his reference points from powerful authoritative characters and institutions. For instance, Keyssar argued that it was not practicable for Americans to ignore reality that the poor still resided in the “land of SUVS and hedge funds” when there are powerful news footages emerging from New Orleans through “major news Magazines (like the Newsweek and New York Times) and Television programs. What the author wanted to portray is fact that most people believe in and respect such “credible information sources” hence would consider such information with the seriousness it deserves (Keyssar, 2007, P.481).

Applying the principle of Logos, the author exposes the inept capacity of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who after a whole one week, could steel not effectively respond to the storm. Keyssar also suggests that the continued low standards of living by the poor are attributable to the fact that the fruits of economic growth only end up to the richest citizens. The author makes use of Logos principle to suggest that disasters are invariably American events hence they have failed to generate meaningful socio-economic changes because the nation basically lacks clear understanding and ideology. The author argues that unlike other disasters, poverty is not a technical issue and therefore requires a comprehensive approach to tackle since it is a substantial structural issue touching on people’s values, economic organizations and the overall state role as envisaged by the citizens (Keyssar, 2007, P.482). 

Keyssar is a Historian and has written and taught history of poverty in the US. Therefore he is a respected person because of his expertise and record and when he writes of the poor way the Katrina victims were handled and the situation swept quickly under the carpet with the ironically quick reversion to “normalcy”, Keyssar made use of Ethos principle of rhetoric to appeal to the reader. The principle of Pathos is employed to persuade the reader to feel the pain the Katrina victims are exposed to in efforts to rebuild their lives after losing their homes and jobs, while those citizens who present as “men and women of goodwill” have put behind themselves the effects of the crisis without putting any meaningful social policy measures in place. The consistency and clarity with which Keyssar presents the analysis of the great depressions of American, and the manner in which the poor are perceived and treated by those in power, is a perfect application of the Logos principle of argument to persuade the reader (Keyssar, 200, P.483).  

The misery and agony of the poor and the destitute millions , who work so aggressively to the best of their abilities, and continue to live in deplorable conditions with knowledge that they are termed “unworthy”, is Pathos argument principle. More so, the sluggish government response and delaying tactics employed in policy formulation and enforcement to allow the economic crisis lapse naturally draws emotions from the reader to feel the same way the author feels about the Administration. When Roosevelt is re-elected in 1936, the language he uses to describe the people’s poor conditions and promise to deal with their situation reminded them of the “deadly labor day Katrina” (Keyssar, 2007.Pp.484-485).

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In conclusion, Keyssar made good use of the three classical principles of argument to persuade the reader to agree with him that poverty has remained a problem in America largely due to a lack of political will to put in place and enforce policy measures aimed at poverty eradication. There has to be an optimistic resolve and collective commitment towards combating poverty (Keyssar, 2007, P. 485).

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