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Pathos

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Pathos

What is pathos? In 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech at the March on Washington for Civil Rights. In this speech, he mentioned how the Emancipation Proclamation gave hope to African Americans for a more equitable future. Then he explained:

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

King used vivid imagery in this passage to impact the audience's emotions. The image of discrimination and segregation as "chains" and the image of African Americans cut off from prosperity evoke feelings of frustration and sadness in the audience. King was using pathos to upset the audience and make them understand the need for change. Pathos is a rhetorical appeal that speakers and writers use to create strong, effective arguments.

Pathos Definition

Back in the 4th century BCE, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote a treatise about rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, convincing others of something. In this text, Aristotle explains several ways to craft a strong persuasive argument. These methods are rhetorical appeals because speakers and writers use them to appeal to the audience.

One of the appeals that Aristotle wrote about is called pathos. Speakers and writers use pathos to pull on an audience's heartstrings and convince them of a point. People use techniques like vivid details, personal anecdotes, and figurative language to appeal to an audience's emotions.

Pathos is an appeal to emotion.

The root word of pathos is the Greek root path, which means feelings. Knowing this root word can help people remember that pathos is an appeal to the audience's feelings.

Pathos, Different emotions, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Speakers use pathos to make the audience feel various emotions.

Identifying and Analyzing Pathos

Pinpointing a speaker's use of pathos can be tricky, as can analyzing if the use of pathos was effective. Learning how to identify and analyze pathos is important because it helps strengthen one's rhetorical skills. Also, standardized exams often ask test-takers to identify and analyze rhetorical appeals, and professors sometimes ask students to write essays on the topic.

Identifying Pathos

Sometimes it can be tricky to identify whether an author is using pathos or not. When trying to identify pathos, readers should look for the following:

  • Sensory imagery that influences the audience's feelings.

  • Emotion-laden language.

  • Personal stories that create sympathy for the speaker.

  • Figurative language, like similes or metaphors that create impactful images.

Emotion-laden language elicits intense emotions from the reader or listener but does not directly refer to a specific emotion. For instance, mentioning the words "death," "mourning," or "loss" can elicit feelings of sadness in an audience without directly stating that something was sad.

Analyzing Pathos

When analyzing pathos, readers should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Does the speaker make the audience feel strong emotions like sadness or excitement?

  • Does the speaker make the audience feel emotions that sway their opinion on the topic?

  • Does the author's use of figurative language effectively enhance their argument?

Pathos Examples

Pathos is evident in various types of sources, such as speeches and books.

Pathos in Speeches

Speakers frequently use rhetorical appeals to ensure their speech is engaging and effective. For instance, President Abraham Lincoln used pathos in "The Gettysburg Address" in 1863.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this."

Lincoln appeals to the audience's emotions here to make sure the audience remembers the soldiers who gave their lives for the country. His use of the word "we" reminds the audience of their involvement in the war, even if they are not fighting. This prompts the audience to reflect on how soldiers gave their lives. His use of the words "final" and "resting place" are examples of emotion-laden language because they remind the audience of how tragic the soldiers' deaths are.

Pathos, Gettysburg, StudySmarterFig 2 - Lincoln used pathos to encourage the audience to remember those that died at Gettysburg.

Pathos in Literature

Writers also use pathos to make a point to their readers. For instance, Mitch Albom tells the story of weekly meetings with his dying former professor in his memoir Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lessons (1997). His conversations with Morrie give him a new perspective on life, one that he uses pathos to describe to the reader. For instance, he realizes:

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning. (Chapter 6)

Here Albom uses the image of people walking around "half-asleep" to show how people walk around lost, without a purpose. Such images prompt the reader to reflect on their life and the lives of those around them. The image of sleepwalkers may elicit sadness and regret in the reader as they realize how many people are not active, authentic community members. In evoking such emotions, Albom hopes to encourage readers to be more self-aware and loving.

Synonyms and Antonyms of Pathos

Pathos is a Greek word that means emotion. It has several synonyms and antonyms.

Synonyms of pathos

Synonyms are words that have a similar meaning. Synonyms of pathos include the following:

  • Passion

  • Feeling

  • Fervor

  • Sentiment

Antonyms of Pathos

Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings. Antonyms of pathos include the following:

  • Apathy

  • Unresponsiveness

  • Numbness

Differences Between Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

Aristotle also wrote about other rhetorical appeals, such as ethos and logos. The following chart compares these three rhetorical techniques and their uses today.

Appeal

Definition

Example

Ethos

An appeal to credibility.

A politician running for president emphasizes his many years of leadership experience.

Logos

An appeal to logic or reason.

A politician running for re-election points out that he decreased the unemployment rate by three percent.

Pathos

An appeal to emotion.

A politician advocating to end a war describes the tragic deaths of young soldiers.

Imagine you are writing a speech about why you should be the ideal candidate for your dream job. Can you craft an argument with all three of these appeals?

Pathos - Key Takeaways

  • Pathos is a rhetorical appeal to emotion.
  • Speakers and writers use several techniques to create pathos, including vivid imagery and touching stories.
  • To analyze pathos, the audience should consider if the speaker's appeal to emotions enhances the argument.
  • Pathos is different from ethos because ethos is an appeal to the speaker's credibility.
  • Pathos is different from logos because logos is an appeal to logos and is based on facts.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pathos

Pathos is an appeal to emotion. 

An example of pathos is a speaker advocating for gun reform telling a sad story about a child who lost his life to gun violence. 

To use pathos means to impact the audience's emotions to strengthen an argument. 

Ethos is an appeal to credibility. The opposite of ethos would be coming across as dishonest or not trustworthy. 

The root word of pathos is path, which means feeling in Greek. 

Final Pathos Quiz

Question

What is pathos?

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Answer

Pathos is an appeal to emotion. 

Show question

Question

What is emotion-laden language?

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Answer

Emotion-laden language elicits intense emotions from the reader but does not directly refer to a specific emotion.  

Show question

Question

What is the root word of the word pathos and what does it mean?

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Answer

Path, which comes from the Greek for "feeling." 

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Question

Which Greek philosopher wrote a treatise entitled 'Rhetoric?'

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Answer

Aristotle

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Question

What is the difference between logos and ethos?

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Answer

Ethos is an appeal to credibility and logos is an appeal to logic. 

Show question

Question

What is rhetoric?

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Answer

The art of persuasion 

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Question

A speaker wants to come across as credible. Which rhetorical appeal should he use?

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Answer

Ethos 

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Question

Which of the following should a speaker use to create pathos?

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Answer

Sensory imagery 

Show question

Question

True or False. Only public speakers use pathos. Readers do not find pathos in books. 

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Answer

False. Writers also use pathos to appeal to their readers’ emotions. 

Show question

Question

True or False. Speakers only use pathos to elicit negative emotions. 

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Answer

False. Speakers can use pathos to elicit both positive and negative emotions from their audience. 

Show question

Question

If someone appeals to your kindness, this is:

Show answer

Answer

Pathos

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Question

If someone tries to make someone feel guilty, this is:

Show answer

Answer

Pathos

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Question

If someone attempts speaks passionately, this is an appeal to:

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Answer

Pathos 

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Question

If you try explaining why someone did something wrong, this is:

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Answer

Logos

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Question

If you cite a piece of evidence, this is:

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Answer

Logos  

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Question

If you remind someone of your position, this is:

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Answer

Ethos

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Question

If someone refers to their degree as a reason, this is:

Show answer

Answer

Ethos   

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Question

If you categorize things based on identifiers, this is:

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Answer

Logos

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Question

If someone lists of all the terrible things that may happen if you do something, this is:

Show answer

Answer

Pathos

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Question

If you explain your place in history, this is:

Show answer

Answer

Ethos

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