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Pathos

Pathos refers to specifically using language in such a way that the speaker seeks to appeal to the emotional reactions of the audience. This can be contrasted with ethos, which appeals to the moral sensibilities of the audience, and logos, which appeals to the reason of the audience. In general, pathos is often a highly effective, but philosophically rather crude, way of getting the audience to sympathize with one's own perspective. 

What is the term?

The term pathos has a long history within the field of rhetoric. Would you like to know more about the meaning of this term?

Pathos refers to the capacity of a speaker or actor to evoke emotion in the audience. 

Within a dramatic context, pathos refers to evoking a feeling of sadness. Within the rhetorical context, though, it primarily refers to emotional persuasion. 

Examples of pathos

Here are some examples for you of the term pathos being used correctly within the context of real sentences. 

"At the political rally, the pathos of the speaker convinced all the citizens that it would be a terrible idea to go to war with a country on the other side of the ocean; it seemed that someone with that much passion couldn't be wrong." 

"The philosopher felt repugnance for the massive political demonstration, due to his conviction that these all people were surely convinced by the base persuasion of pathos and not by the higher persuasion of actual rational thought."

"The pathos of the actor in the tragedy led all of the audience members to psychologically identify with the character's challenges and sorrows."  

In the event that you would like a little further information about how to use the term pathos, here are a couple rules you can follow. 

1. Pathos essentially refers to emotional appeal. The listener is "moved" by a speaker who has pathos not because of any rational considerations, but rather because he exhibits his own experiences of life and makes the listener think about his own experiences of life. Pathos is thus essentially a non-rational concept. 

2. There is a subtle difference, however, between pathos in rhetoric and pathos in drama. In rhetoric, pathos refers to any form of emotional persuasion. In drama, however, it primarily refers to the capacity of an actor to cultivate a sense of empathy in the audience for the suffering of his character. 

Origins

The concept of pathos was perhaps most famously formulated by Aristotle as one of the three main modes of persuasion in rhetoric. Logos would refer to persuasion by reason; ethos would refer to persuasion by credibility; and pathos would refer to persuasion by emotional appeal. Morally speaking, then, the use of pathos within rhetoric, in and of itself, could be considered somewhat dubious, insofar as it would be capable of convincing an audience of an argument on completely dubious grounds. This is generally not considered desirable within a rational and democratic society. 

Moreover, within the dramatic context, pathos can perhaps be traced to the tradition of Greek tragedy. The purpose of tragic drama is essentially to lead the audience to identify with the tragic hero, and thereby release their own existential concerns through the aesthetic catharsis of the drama itself. The achievement of this identification, and especially this tragic identification, requires the actor to have talent in conjuring a sense of pathos in the audience. Through pathos, the audience vicariously experiences the suffering of the tragic hero; and as a result, they also experience the kind of redemption that the tragic hero generally experiences.

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