Photo of a laurel wreath and a bust of Aristotle against the backdrop of Greek artwork. The image reinforces how ancient the idea of the appeals really is.

Source: Aristotle Collage, IPSI

We have all been using appeals practically since birth. As infants, we learn that crying or cooing brings us the results we desire. As toddlers, we might try throwing temper tantrums to get our way, but usually our parents choose to ignore them, and we have to find a more reasonable approach. By the time we become teenagers, we’ve had endless practice trying to get our way with the adults (and others) in our lives.

Aristotle identified the three main appeals—ethical, logical, and emotional—and you have been using them in your efforts, maybe unknowingly. You’ve grown well aware of what methods work best with each audience, and you probably have had increasingly successful results. You have had to learn to apply different appeals to different audiences and different circumstances, and you likely have used all three in your strongest arguments because, in a good argument, the three appeals are closely intertwined.

Some people react strongly to appeals to their “head” or reason—the appeal to logic, or logos. Others react more to appeals to their “heart” or feelings—the appeal to emotion, or pathos. All people respond best if they perceive the arguer is trustworthy by making a personal connection through gut instinct or with a handshake—the ethical appeal, or ethos.

Through this lesson you will recognize how writers design their arguments to win us over just as you have been doing with the people you know, and you will acquire a greater understanding not only of other people, but also of your own values, beliefs, tastes, desires, and feelings.