etymology: per (denotes completion) + suadere--to advise or urge
definition: the act of moving an audience to belief in a certain position or action
In the classes that he taught us, Mr. Buckheit, Baylor headmaster, explained that the debate about the purposes of persuasion is an age-old one (see the dialogue between Socrates and Gorgias). Is the goal of persuasion to win, or is it to work towards the truth? Mr. Buckheit suggested that we gain more when we strive to discover the truth, and he provided the following schemes to help us diagnose problems broadly and consider solutions thoughtfully.
Four causes. According to Aristotle, there are four kinds of causes--and hence four possible causes for any problem. Considering these causes may help us to diagnose a problem and discover solutions. The four causes are:
material cause (parts)
formal cause (architecture)
efficient cause (agent)
final cause (purpose)
Take, for example, a pencil and its causes:
parts: wood, lead, eraser
architecture: a stick with lead and an eraser at one end
agent: pencil factory
purpose: to draw, to write
Now consider the possible causes of this problem (Mr. Buckheit's example): "The building is falling down."
parts: bad bricks
architecture: faulty architecture
agent: poor craftsmanship
Depending on which of these causes is responsible for the problem with the building (or which combination of these causes), we have a variety of solutions available:
parts: sue the supplier
architecture: sue the architect
agent: sue the contractor
purpose: sue the landlord
Now consider the possible causes of this problem: "The girl's room is messy."
parts: furnishings; the girl; her parents
architecture: design of the room; parental rules
agent: the girl; the parents
purpose: sleep, work, play
This framework helps us see the variety of possible solutions:
solution: get rid of some objects; reform the girl; readjust the parents' expectations
solution: change the space (add more closets, for example); change the rules
solution: reform the girl; reform the parents
solution: provide other space for work and play; make the room for sleeping and dressing
Diagnosing a problem according to its four causes may help us avoid oversimplifying it. If the Student Center is messy, the problem may not simply be with one of the parts (the students).
Three levels of discourse. Even if people agree on the causes of a problem, they may have difficulty arriving at a solution. Too often, they become bogged down in a problem because they refuse to compromise or to think beyond the obvious. The following ways to conceptualize problems may lead to better solutions.
Point/counterpoint (the method of debate). We see the problem as an either/or question.
- Mr. Buckheit's example:
Problem: How should we finance next year's budget?
Either/or: The school must either cut expenses or raise tuition.
- Our example:
Problem: I am failing English.
Either/or: My mother must help me, or I'll fail.
Positions on a spectrum (the method of resolution). We take the either/or alternatives, stretch them to the extremes, and try to find a compromise in between.
- Extremes: One end--we'll hold expenses by cutting programs and teaching positions. The other end--we'll raise tuition a bundle, add programs, and give faculty a huge pay raise.
Compromise: We'll cut some expenses and raise tuition just a bit.
- Extremes: One end--my mother does my homework. The other end--I give up.
Compromise: My mother will help me thirty minutes a night, and I'll try to study harder.
Multiple perspectives (the method of discrimination). We try to move off the line and imagine other ways to approach the problem.
- How else can the school save or raise money? Possibilities: become more energy efficient; rent the facilities; increase enrollment in summer programs; earn more on the endowment--and so on.
- How else can the girl pass English? Possibilities: Go to extra help every day; hire a tutor; do lots of extra credit--and so on.
THE APPEAL TO LOGOS (REASON): DEDUCTION
Etymology: de means out of, from;
ductio is the noun form of ducere , which means
to lead. Thus: a leading out of.
Definition: coming to a conclusion by reasoning, and in particular, reasoning from (out of) the general to the specific.
Premise. A proposition leading to a conclusion. In other words, a premise is the idea with which one starts to produce a conclusion. Examples:
Syllogism. The underlying structure of deductive reasoning.
Major premise: Animals with hooves eat grass.
Minor premise: Horses have hooves
Conclusion: Horses eat grass.
Valid and invalid syllogisms. Syllogisms that follow the pattern above are valid, but a syllogism is invalid if the subject of the minor premise is not a member of the group named (first) in the major premise.
Major premise: When someone is in a swimming pool, he or she is wet.
Minor premise: Bob is wet.
Conclusion: Bob is in a swimming pool.
Simply because someone is wet, it doesn't follow that he is in a swimming pool. Here is the valid version of this syllogism:
Major premise: When someone is in a swimming pool, he or she is wet.
Minor premise: Bob is in a swimming pool.
Conclusion: Bob is wet.
True and false premises. Truth and validity are not the same. The conclusion of an invalid syllogism may be true. (Bob may be in a pool). The conclusion of a valid syllogism will be false if one of the premises is false. (Bob is enclosed in some sort of diver's bubble.) Only if the syllogism is valid and the premises are true do we know that the conclusion is true.
Conditional syllogisms. We sometimes run across a conditional syllogism. It is useful to remember when such syllogisms are valid and when they are not.
The enthymeme. A syllogism in which one of the premises is implied rather than stated. Enthymemes are common in persuasive discourse:
Deductive fallacies. A fallacy is an error in reasoning. We have already considered the two most common deductive fallacies, the invalid syllogism and false premise. A special kind of false premise is the fallacy of either/or: assuming a situation is either one way or the other without allowing other possibilities. Examples:
Invalid syllogism. If you don't study hard, you won't pass. You studied hard, so you passed. (If not x, then not y.)
Valid: If you passed, then you studied hard. (If not y, then not x.)
False premise. People who make all A's are genius. You made all A's, so you're a genius.
True premise: People who make all A's are smart or hard-working or have easy teachers or are lucky or . . .
Either/or. You must make all A's or you won't be admitted to a selective college.
True premise: You must have solid academic achievement (or reasonable academic achievement and some special talent or influence) or you won't be admitted to a selective college.
Begging the question. This fallacy is also called circular reasoning. It is usually deductive because we assume in the premise what we are trying to prove. An example:
- Clear cutting rain forests is destructive because it is the cutting down of trees.
This is a fallacy because all the person is saying is that clear cutting is destructive because it is destructive. The person hasn't defined destruction or stated why cutting down trees is destructive. Other examples:
- These dangerous toys should be outlawed.
- I'm against capital punishment because it involves killing.
THE APPEAL TO LOGOS (REASON): INDUCTION
Etymology: in means into or toward;
ductio is the noun form of ducere , which means
to lead. Thus: a leading toward.
Definition: arriving at a general conclusion on the basis of particular instances, thus reasoning from the specific to the general.
Instances. As opposed to deduction, induction relies on specific instances to arrive at a general conclusion. For example, all humans that we have seen have two legs, so we can make the assumption that all humans have two legs. Another example is that we have observed that certain types of trees lose their chlorophyll in fall, and then their leaves fall off. Based on this observation, we can assume that all trees of the type we have observed will also lose their leaves in the fall.
Induction and truth. Induction leads to the truth only if the instances on which we base a conclusion meet certain requirements:
1) The instances must be known.
2) The instances must be sufficient.
3) The instances upon which we base a generalization must be representative.
4) Any negative instances must be explained.
The example. In Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, Edward P. J. Corbett states, "Just as deductive reasoning has its rhetorical equivalent in the enthymeme, so inductive reasoning has its rhetorical equivalent in the example " (68). Because of limited time or space, the speaker or writer ordinarily cites relatively few instances. Even one example, however, may be effective, especially if it disproves a generalization. In "A Daughter's Inheritance," for example, Kate Rath portrays her father as wonderful, loving, and gay. Even with one example, she effectively disproves the notion that gay men can't be good parents.
Hasty generalization. Sometimes people make inductive arguments far too quickly. For example:
This is a hasty generalization. Two instances are not sufficient to conclude that all good students do not smoke.
False analogy. Another temptation involving inductive reasoning is to offer an analogy as proof. In fact, although two situations may be similar in several ways, it does not follow that they are similar in every way. Thus an analogy, while it may feel persuasive, is not logically conclusive. For example:
Like any analogy, this is false at some level. No matter what we do, there is a good bit of information that we simply must remember; if we looked up everything, we'd be hopelessly inefficient.
Other inductive fallacies.
Non sequitur (it does not follow). This fallacy occurs when a person makes a statement and then backs it up with a fact that has no bearing on the statement. This fallacy is often a desperate attempt by someone losing an argument. For example:
- Joe will make a good baseball player because he is an avid reader.
The fact that Joe is an avid reader has absolutely no bearing on his ability to play baseball.
Post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). This fallacy occurs when someone assumes that an event that precedes a second event is therefore the cause of it. (The fallacy is inductive because it relies on the observation that an earlier event can cause a later one: drinking too much tea can make it difficult for me to sleep all night.) For example:
- Giving the star baseball player a huge raise threw the team into a slump; the team wasn't in a slump before the raise was announced.
The fact that the baseball team went into a slump might have no connection to the contract. Baseball teams have slumps from time to time for a variety of reasons.
Slippery slope (also known as reductio ad absurdum--reducing to the extreme). This fallacy presupposes that movement in one direction, however small, must lead to an extreme. If one thing (a) is allowed to occur, then b, c, and d will necessarily follow. (In fact, b, c, and d may not result.) For example:
- If Montana eliminates speed limits, a) in several years, there will be no speed limits anywhere, b) the number of wrecks will skyrocket, c) the roads will be unsafe, and d) the roads will no longer serve any purpose at all.
This is not a logical result of Montana eliminating speed limits. Other states will not follow, and the roads will not necessarily become unsafe.
THE APPEAL TO ETHOS (CHARACTER)
One way to think of persuasion is as a triangle with the speaker, the audience, and the topic serving as the three points. Although those unfamiliar with the language of persuasion often assume that the appeal to ethos is an appeal to the audience's ethical beliefs, it is in fact the appeal that derives from the speaker or writer's own ethos, ethical beliefs, character. Corbett notes, "The ethical appeal is exerted . . . when the speech itself impresses the audience that the speaker is a person of sound sense . . . high moral character . . . and benevolence" (Corbett 80).
How does the speaker convince the audience of his/her ethical appeal? The orators' ethical appeal derives in part from a certain amount of knowledge of the subject. For example, the speaker's knowledge of detailed facts or statistics suggests to the audience that the speaker is a trustworthy authority and knows the topic well. Stating one's beliefs, values, and priorities in connection with the subject assists in convincing the audience of the argument.
Corbett cites as an effect ethical appeal the following introduction in a speech by Benjamin Franklin to the Constitutional Convention, an introduction that portrays the speaker as "a modest, magnanimous, open-minded gentleman" (82).
Similarly, in this passage from Walden, Henry David Thoreau creates an effective ethical appeal by saying that he is no different from the people in his audience (and skillfully using first person plural):
And in his Inaugural Address, President Kennedy established his ethical appeal, in part, by this statement in his conclusion:
Fallacies of ethos.
Ad hominem (to the man). This fallacy occurs when a speaker abandons the argument to attack the opponent. through name calling, appealing to prejudice, or associating the opponent with some extreme. For example:
- Stop talking. You're an idiot who doesn't know anything about the death penalty.
- You can't argue about abortion; you're a right-wing Christian.
- You're like Saddam Hussein; you'd nuke the whole world if you could.
Appeal to false authority. Examples are numerous in everyday life. Models who advertise cars, celebrities who advertise toothpaste, and politicians who advertise television shows are examples of appeal to false authority. Basically, this ethical fallacy occurs when a product or idea is advertised by a person who has no knowledge about what he or she is selling.
Strawperson. A person commits this fallacy by misstating an opponent's argument and then attacking it. For example:
- So you want a million babies to die because their teenage mothers are too irresponsible to abstain from sex or even use a condom?
THE APPEAL TO PATHOS (EMOTION)
Just as the appeal to ethos is to the character of the speaker, the appeal to pathos is to the emotions of the audience. Although people are rational creatures who appreciate a reasonable argument, they are also emotional creatures, and as Corbett notes, "since it is our will ultimately that moves us to action and since the emotions have a powerful influence on the will, many of our actions are prompted by the stimulus of our emotions" (86).
How does a speaker appeal to the emotions of the audience? The speaker must draw on the sympathies and emotions of the audience, causing them to accept the ideas or propositions that the speaker suggests. A speaker might characterize the social groups such as the elderly or the wealthy and then discuss emotional topics that work well to persuade them. For example, the elderly are for the most part nearing the end of their life; an orator might sympathize with relevant subject matter concerning death.
President Kennedy's Inaugural Address appeals frequently to the patriotism, courage, and virtue of citizens of the United States:
When appealing to an audience's emotion, one does well to remember Socrates's concern about rhetoricians who might persuade people to evil actions. Although President Kennedy appeals to what was best in his audience, twentieth century demagogues like Hitler provide ample proof that appealing to an audience's baser emotions can lead to disastrous consequences.
Fallacies of pathos. Instead of appealing to the audience's logic, a speaker who commits a fallacy of pathos appeals to the audience's emotion.
Ad populum (to the people). This is a commonly committed fallacy of pathos that occurs when a speaker appeals to the audience's biases and prejudices rather that the audience's ability to reason. By appealing to an audience's patriotism or their prejudices, a speaker can sway the audience's emotions to encourage support for the speaker's cause. Anything from playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" after a speech to negatively mentioning the opponent's race, sex, or religion can be examples of this fallacy of pathos.
Appeal to tradition. When a person makes an appeal to tradition, he or she maintains that something should be done one way because it always has been done that way. Anyone who works in a school is familiar with appeals to tradition.
Bandwagon. This one's easy. It can be summed up in one very overused cliché: "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, wouldn't you?" Here are a few more examples:
- "Everyone else is doing it; we should too."
- "Sally and Janie both have the latest pair of GAP jeans; I just have to have them."
Red herring. This is kind of like saying, "Hey look! It's Elvis!" in a crowded room after you've just done something really embarrassing, but rhetorical of course. This fallacy is a cheap ploy to divert the audience from the real or central issue to some irrelevant detail. For example, with the AIDS epidemic, some people are so engaged by the idea that it's a primarily gay disease that they overlook the fact that heterosexual sex transmits the virus as well.
THE ARRANGEMENT OF MATERIALS
How one organizes the parts of his or her persuasive speech may control whether or not the speech is effective. Generally the introduction needs to come at the beginning, followed by the statement of fact. The conclusion needs to conclude the piece. How one arranges the confirmation and refutation depends on the quality of the arguments, the context of the speech, the audience, and the speaker.
Introduction. The introduction prepares the audience for the discourse by doing two things according to Corbett: 1) "It informs the audience of the end or object of our discourse," and 2) "It disposes the audience to be receptive to what we say" (282). The introduction provides the audience with an insight into the topic before the speaker breaks down the issue. There are several types of introductions:
Introduction inquisitive. By asking a question or questions, this type of introduction proves that the issue at hand is important and interesting (Corbett 283).
Introduction paradoxical. this introduction persuades the audience that the points of the discourse have to be acknowledged even if they appear implausible (Corbett 284).
Introduction corrective. If the author feels that there has been some sort of misconception about the subject, he or she will use this type of introduction to mend any false notions (Corbett 284).
Introduction preparatory. This introduction prepares the audience for the author's method of discourse, the lack of knowledge about a detail, or the misconceptions about the topic in general (Corbett 285).
Introduction narrative. An anecdote characterizes this introduction as it rouses the audience's interest in the topic (Corbett 286).
Statement of Fact. This section of the discourse describes the details surrounding the topic in order to familiarize the audience with it. This section can be omitted if the audience is already well-informed about the issue (Corbett 294-295).
Confirmation. This section can be the essence of the discourse. The author needs to prove his or her point here. The various points of the confirmation can be organized in a way that suits the discourse. The author can choose the order: strong arguments to weak arguments, or vice versa, or a mixed order (strong, weak, strong, etc.). The order should take into consideration the purpose the author wants to achieve. If he or she wants a climatic ending, then the arguments should be organized weak to strong. There are many options, and the author needs to do whatever he or she feels will be most effective with the audience at hand. This section of the discourse can be followed or preceded by the refutation (Corbett 306-307).
Refutation. In this section of the persuasive speech or essay, the author addresses a view opposed to his. Therefore, the opposite of the author's argument is refuted. Depending on the quality of the refutation, the author can choose to lead with the refutation before the points of his confirmation or vice versa (Corbett 302).
By appeal to reason. Appealing to reason for the purpose of refutation involves two things: 1) "By denying the truth of one of the premises on which the argument rests and proving, perhaps through evidence or testimony, that the premise is false." 2) "By objecting to the inferences drawn from the premises" (Corbett 303).
By appeal to emotion. In order to appeal to emotion, one must know and understand the attitude of the audience one is addressing. Different refutations suit different attitudes. Consequently, an effective refutation needs to recognize the audience's general feelings (Corbett 304).
By appeal to ethics. In order to disprove the opposing view, the audience must trust the author, and they must believe in his or her moral capacity. Therefore, an ethical appeal is necessary for an adequate refutation (Corbett 304).
Witty refutation. The use of sarcasm in the refutation can discredit an opposing view by making the audience laugh at it (Corbett 305).
Conclusion. A conclusion needs to close the argument in the discourse by recapitulating the idea, generalizing a point, or allowing for further emotional appeal. Conclusions can vary depending on the nature of the discourse. The main purpose of a conclusion is to leave the audience with a good opinion of the argument that the author is trying to prove. Some examples:
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