The Greek philosopher Aristotle identified three methods of persuasion in argumentative writing: ethos, pathos, and logos.
- Pathos is the appeal to emotion. This method requires tugging at the audience’s heartstrings, tapping into their imagination or identity.
- Ethos is the appeal to ethics. An argument that relies on ethos relies on the authority and credibility of the speaker.
- Logos is the appeal to logic. Aristotle’s favorite, this requires clear and careful reasoning to substantiate a claim.
Despite the Greeks’ love of logos, it seems best when trying to prove a point online to avoid logic. No matter how well-reasoned and carefully planned your assertions (deductive, inductive — irrelevant), no matter how much math or many links you can provide — logic doesn’t seem to always sway folks, and reasoning doesn’t inevitably triumph. A logical argument is often a lengthy argument. And on the internet, brevity and bullshit typically win the day.
Pathos response: “TL;DR”
Ethos response: “Nice arena ratings, noob.”
Pathos response: “Lolwut”
Ethos response: “In my experience, that one time…”
Ethos response: “According to Ghostcrawler…”
Ethos response: “Well in my old guild — ranked 2nd on the server, mind you…”
Pathos response: “Y so srs? It’s just a game.”
Pathos response: “Ur a Nazi.”
Pathos response: [ANY RESPONSE INVOLVING ALL CAPSLOCK]
Pathos response: “I could kick your ass IRL.”
Ethos response: “I could kick your ass IRL. 4 realz.”
Ethos response: [any response involving a respondent who simply must have the last word because, clearly, whoever responds last to a thread on the internet wins]