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Logos

Have you ever heard someone disagreeable make a good point? Almost certainly, and it happens when someone uses logic. Logic cuts through personal preference and biases, so even if you aren't emotionally inclined to believe somebody, that person can use logic to reach you at an impartial level: at a level where everybody and everything plays by the same rules. Such a logical argument is the appeal to logos.

Logos Definition

Logos is one of the three classical appeals defined by Aristotle. The other two are pathos and ethos.

Logos is the appeal to logic.

When a writer or speaker cites a statistic, scientific study, or fact, uses if-then statements, or makes comparisons, they use logos. There are different modes of reasoning, but the two most common are inductive and deductive reasoning.

Inductive reasoning uses experiments to draw a broader conclusion. It creates general principles.

Deductive reasoning uses general facts to draw a more narrow conclusion. It has the potential to be highly accurate.

These are both kinds of logos because they use logic to draw conclusions. In simplest terms, they both use observation to find answers.

You can use such conclusions to persuade others. This is how logic becomes a force in argumentation.

Logos. A road sign indicating "narrow road." StudySmarter.Fig. 1 - Logos using deduction narrows a conversation and focuses arguments.

Example of Logos in Writing

To understand where logos fits into writing — and to understand an example of its use in writing — you need to understand argumentation. Argumentation is the concerted use of arguments.

An argument is a contention.

Arguments need support, though. To provide support for an argument, speakers and writers use rhetoric.

Rhetoric is a method to appeal or persuade.

Here's where logos comes into the equation. One mode of rhetoric is logos: the appeal to logic. Logic can be used as a rhetorical device to persuade someone that an argument is valid.

Here's a brief example of logos in writing. This is an argument.

Because cars are so dangerous, only those with fully matured faculties should be entrusted with their use. Therefore, children, who do not possess fully developed brains, shouldn't be allowed to drive cars.

This alone is the use of logos to create an argument. However, it would be enhanced with another major element of logical rhetoric: evidence.

Evidence provides reasons to support an argument.

Here are some hypothetical pieces of evidence that would help support the above argument:

  • A statistic stating how dangerous cars are compared to other dangerous things

  • Studies proving that children do not possess fully developed or sufficiently developed mental faculties

  • Studies showing that younger drivers cause proportionally more accidents than their adult counterparts

Logic works as rhetoric, but only if your audience accepts the premises. In the example, the logic works, but only if you accept things like children don't possess fully developed brains, and only those with fully developed mental faculties should be able to drive. If an audience doesn't accept these things, then they will not accept the logic, which is where evidence can step in and persuade.

Evidence can help an audience accept the premise of a logical argument.

Logos. A car crash. StudySmarter.

Fig. 2 - Evidence-backed logic can turn non-believers into believers.

Logos Example with Evidence

Here is an example of logos that employs both logic and evidence. This example of logos can be found in a National Review article, where Kathryn Lopez argues that Ukraine has cultural and religious freedom, whereas Russia does not. Lopez writes:

Really, there is unity in Ukraine. There's toleration. Ukraine today has a Jewish president, and in the summer and fall of 2019, both the president and the prime minister were Jewish — the only country besides Israel where the head of state and head of government were Jewish was Ukraine. Ukraine has Russian schools, the Russian Orthodox Church has thousands of parishes there. By comparison, there are hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Russia, and they do not have a single legally registered parish. Ukrainians in Russia, who number between four and six million, do not have a single Ukrainian language school." 1

According to Lopez, Ukraine is a nation that allows for the exercise of religious freedom and the freedom to speak any language, while Russia has no such freedoms. As the article continues, Lopez uses this logic to connect Ukraine to the West, which has similar freedoms.

Lopez compares and contrasts Ukraine and Russia, a hallmark of logos.

Interestingly, the goal of this logic is to create sympathy. Lopez wants to paint Ukraine as a fellow progressive country so that readers will sympathize with its plight regarding Russia. As a pertinent side note, this fact demonstrates the interplay between logos and pathos, and how logical arguments can produce emotional sympathy.

Perhaps this is a good time to talk about ethos and pathos a little bit, and how they fit into rhetorical analysis.

Logos, Ethos, and Pathos in Rhetorical Analysis

When someone uses rhetoric in an argument, it can be scrutinized using something called rhetorical analysis.

Rhetorical analysis is looking at how (and how effectively) someone uses rhetoric.

Here's what that looks like in terms of analyzing the rhetoric of logos.

You can analyze logos using rhetorical analysis; however, you can also analyze logos, ethos, and pathos together.

Combining Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

When a writer creates rhetoric in argumentation, they often use a combination of the three classical appeals. Look out for these rhetorical tricks of how a writer might combine ethos or pathos with logos.

Pathos Leading Into Logos

This might be someone riling up the audience before calling them to action.

We can't let them do this again to us! To stop them, we need to organize and vote. Voting has changed the world before, and can again.

Here, the speaker ignites the audience using pathos. Then, they reason that because voting has changed the world before, they need to organize and vote in order to stop "them."

Logos Followed by Ethos

It can look like this.

Studies show that waste removal can be made up to 20% more efficient in the city. As a city planner myself, this makes sense.

This speaker cites a study, which is logos, then follows it up with a comment on their own competency, which is ethos.

A combination of all three classical appeals

If an argument feels complicated or pulls you in multiple directions, it might be trying to utilize all three classical appeals.

However, the writer is off-base in their assertion that degrees don't matter in securing a job. An independent study found that 74% of employers paying over $60,000 a year prefer candidates with higher degrees. It's inflammatory to claim otherwise, and those who spent a lot of time earning higher degrees should be fired up at these claims. Fortunately, one should trust an independent study over journalistic impressions, so there probably isn't much to worry about when it comes to real-world consequences.

This example explodes with uses of logos, pathos, and ethos, respectively, seeming almost combative. This example also doesn't leave much time for the reader to consider the arguments before moving on to something else.

Indeed, combining the three appeals will not always be effective, especially if the arguments are not carefully laid out. Using all three classical appeals in one paragraph can feel manipulative or like a barrage. Point this out when you see it! Also, when using logos in your own essays, try to use a balanced approach with the three classical appeals. Use logos foremost in argumentative essays, and only use ethos and pathos when necessary to keep your arguments rounded.

Separate your appeals into their own arguments. Use pathos to show the human element of a situation, and use ethos to compare sources.

Example of Rhetorical Analysis Essay Using Logos

Now to focus on analyzing logos specifically.

Here's an example of Harriet Clark analyzing the logical rhetoric in Jessica Grose's article, "Cleaning: The Final Feminist Frontier." Harriet Clark writes in her rhetorical analysis essay:

Grose uses strong appeals to logos, with many facts and statistics and logical progressions of ideas. She points out facts about her marriage and the distribution of household chores… Grose continues with many statistics: [A]bout 55 percent of American mothers employed full time do some housework on an average day, while only 18 percent of employed fathers do... [W]orking women with children are still doing a week and a half more of "second shift" work each year than their male partners... Even in the famously gender-neutral Sweden, women do 45 minutes more housework a day than their male partners. 2

First, Clark points out Grose's use of statistics. Statistics are a great way for essayists to quantify their arguments. An argument might make sense, but if you can assign a number to it, that is a great way to appeal to someone's sense of reason.

Second, Clark points out how Grose uses statistics multiple times. Although you can overwhelm someone with numbers, Clark rightly implies that Grose is effective in using several pieces of scientific evidence. Typically one study isn't enough to prove something, much less if that something involves an assertion regarding most households.

You can do a lot with evidence and numbers, even in a short amount of time!

Use studies appropriate to the scope of your argument. If your claim is small, you only need a small sample and fewer studies. If you are claiming something bigger, you'll need more.

Logos. A woman demonstrates the power of feminism. StudySmarter.

Fig. 3 - Rhetorical analysis can shed light on social issues.

Accuracy of Evidence in Rhetorical Analysis Essay

When looking at a writer or speaker's sources, it's essential to check whether or not those sources are credible. The "CRAAP method" helps judge whether a source is reliable or not:

Currency: Does the source reflect the most recent information about the subject?

Relevance: Does the source support the argument?

Authority: Is the source knowledgeable about the subject?

Accuracy: Can the source's information be cross-checked with other sources?

Purpose: Why was the source written?

Use this cheeky acronym to make sure that a piece of evidence supports the logic of the argument. And bear in mind that if the logic is flawed or the evidence is inaccurate, you could be looking at a rhetorical fallacy.

Sometimes, evidence can be deceiving. Investigate studies, analyses, and other forms of evidence. Don't take everything at face value!

Rhetorical Analysis of Logos in Literature

Here is where you bring it all together. This is how you might identify logos, analyze logos, and do so in rhetorical literary analysis. Yes, logos doesn't exist only in papers, articles, and politics; it exists in stories, too, and you can glean a lot about a story by examining its logic!

In Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment (1866), the main character, Raskolnikov, creates this startling argument using logos:

  1. There are two types of men: extraordinary and ordinary.

  2. Extraordinary men are not bound to moral laws like ordinary men.

  3. Since moral laws do not bind them, an extraordinary man may commit murder.

  4. Raskolnikov believes he is an extraordinary man. Therefore, it is permissible for him to commit murder.

This use of logos is the novel's central theme, and readers are free to analyze its flawed and valid points. A reader might also examine Raskolnikov's ultimate fate: although Raskolnikov believes his logic is flawless, he nevertheless descends into madness because of the murder.

A reader might analyze Raskolnikov's logic at two levels.

  • At the first level, they might critique the logic of Raskolnikov's argument in the first place (for instance, the burden of identifying anyone as extraordinary).
  • At the second level, they might critique Raskolnikov's reliance on logic alone to make a decision. Because Raskolnikov fails to account for his emotions (pathos) and arguably ordinary credentials (ethos), things go south for him, despite the careful logic (logos).

This is exactly the sort of rhetorical analysis you should pursue when critiquing logos in literature. Ask questions, examine causal relationships, and verify each line of reasoning. Look at logos in all its facets.

When reading stories, keep an eye on character motivation. This will help you critique that character's logic as well as the logic of the story. Using logos, you can piece together a narrative to create summaries, arguments, and more.

Logos - Key Takeaways

  • Logos is the appeal to logic.
  • Logos exists in many places, from articles to novels.
  • The two most common ways of reasoning are inductive and deductive reasoning.
  • Inductive reasoning draws general conclusions from specific observations. Deductive reasoning draws narrower conclusions from general observations.
  • Logos is a kind of rhetoric that you can analyze by looking at arguments and evidence.

1 Lopez, K. J. "Fifteen Things That Caught My Eye Today: Religious Freedom in Ukraine, Chief Justice Roberts & Roe & More." National Review. 2022.

2 Clark, Harriet. "Rhetorical Analysis Essay Sample | PDF." Myperfectwords.com. 2015.

Frequently Asked Questions about Logos

Logos means the rationality or logic of an argument. It is important in speeches because it is what the speaker is trying to persuade the audience to believe.

You can identify the logos in a speech by examining the claims made by a speaker and the evidence for their claims.

Yes, logos is the rhetorical device that persuades through logic. Ethos persuades by authority. And pathos persuades through emotions.

Persuasive writing is a piece written with the intent to change the hearts and minds of audiences.

Inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning, statistics, facts, scientific studies, and citation of reliable sources.

Final Logos Quiz

Question

What is logos?

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Answer

The persuasive appeal to logic.

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What is inductive reasoning?

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Answer

Reasoning that takes similar anecdotes and facts and draws general conclusions from them

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What is deductive reasoning?

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Answer

Reasoning that takes agreed upon general propositions and draws conclusions from them

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It provides reasons to support an argument.

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Answer

Evidence

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Question

Logos is a kind of rhetoric.

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Answer

True

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 Deductive and inductive reasoning use observation to find answers.

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True

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Evidence isn't strictly "logical."

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False

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If you use logos in an argument, does it make the argument true?

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Yes, if it is done properly

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Logic only works as an argument if the audience accepts the premises.

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True

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In a rhetorical analysis, focus on just one of the three classical appeals of logos, ethos, or pathos.

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False

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It is gathering specific examples and drawing a general conclusion from them. 

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Answer

Inductive reasoning

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It is narrowing down toward a truth or fact.

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Deductive reasoning

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It refers to an appeal to emotion.

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Pathos

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It is the voice of authority.

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Ethos

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It is how logical an argument is.

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Logos

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It is a scientific, mathematical, or philosophical argument.

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An argument using logos

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It uses sources to explain a process.

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Logos

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It uses passion to incite action.

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Pathos

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It uses accomplishments in the field to bolster one's position. 

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Ethos

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A source is always factual. True or false?

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Answer

False. A source can be anything.

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