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Pathos and Rhetoric

Daniel M. Gross

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

People Plato

Key-Topics emotion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Derived from the Greek verb paskhein , meaning to be in a certain condition, to experience, or to suffer, pathos is one of the three principal sources of rhetorical proof along with ethos and logos (→  Ethos and Rhetoric ; Logos and Rhetoric ). Typically translated into English as → “ emotion ,” pathos is a key term in the ancient debate between philosophy and rhetoric because it tracks basic attitudes about human nature and civil society. In the western canon, emotions have long been treated with caution by those who would hail the virtues of rational discourse aimed at truth. And since Plato (c. 428–c. 347 bce ), such caution is the symptom of a divisive political philosophy separating experts from non-experts. As Socrates suggests in the Gorgias – Plato's famous diatribe against rhetorical art – the rhetorician might have luck arguing to the ignorant about something like the causes of health and sickness, but among experts, the diagnosis of a trained doctor will carry more weight. In contrast to the expert, a sophistic rhetorician working in either an expert domain or in a practical domain such as politics has no need to know the truth about things. Instead, according to Plato, the rhetorician merely hits upon techniques of persuasion that achieve the desired ends (459c). First among these techniques, as the Roman rhetoricians would later reiterate, is the appeal to popular ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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