When you think of logos, think of "logic." In fact, logos is the Greek word for "reason" or "plan." Indeed, logic goes hand-in-hand with reason. Why does this matter? Well, logos is one of three main methods of argumentation put forth by ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Get a clear definition of what logos is through logos examples.
Sometimes, people argue their case by appealing to one's emotions. Other times, people appeal to others' ethics or morals. But, of course, you can also go with good old-fashioned logic. And that's where logos enters the scene.
You know logos is logic but what does that mean exactly. Well, when logos is used in an argument, that means you are using facts, like data or statistics, or common sense to make your argument known. For example:
Echo is a dog. All dogs wag their tag. Echo wags his tail.
When you are talking about logic, you typically use two different types to prove your point. Let's take a look at both.
- deductive reasoning - where you reach a logical conclusion from a few statements; for example, if A=B, and B=C then A=C.
- inductive reasoning - where you make generalized logical conclusions based on what you know or observed to be true; for example, drawing a conclusion that hands-on learning is helpful after observing an improvement in lessons with hands-on learning
Not every piece of literature is seeking to make a case or develop an argument. However, every piece should have a central theme or moral. One of the best ways to convey a unifying theme is to bolster it with pure logic. Let's take a look at some examples.
George Orwell often considered the manner in which the ruling party (politicians) can manipulate facts to garner support for their initiatives. Orwell all but mocks logic in this excerpt by making the case that, even through logic, people can be tricked by their very own governing authorities.
"In the end, the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy."
Shakespeare was a rhetorical master. One could easily argue there wasn't a literary device he couldn't master. Here, Portia applies the laws of reason to say, sure, the opposing counsel is due their "pound of flesh" for the crime committed against them but nowhere does it say they're due any blood. Actually, that's brilliantly logical, isn't it?
"Tarry a little; there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are 'a pound of flesh:'
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;
But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice."
The literary genius of Harper Lee has stood the test of time. However, she also had her logic game on point. Check out this excerpt where Atticus argues for Tom Robinson. By avoiding race, he clearly demonstrates the lack of factual evidence against Tom.
"The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence to the effect that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. It has relied instead upon the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence has not only been called into serious question on cross-examination, but has been flatly contradicted by the defendant. The defendant is not guilty, but somebody in this courtroom is."
Movie scripts have at least one correlation to novel writing. There's usually some sort of conflict that requires a resolution. When it comes time to resolve whatever's gone awry, straight logic is often the best medicine. Here are a few different examples.
In Laws of Attraction, Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore depict two powerful New York attorneys. As such, they spend their days dealing with cold, hard facts. However, they also develop feelings for one another, despite their bitter rivalry in the courtroom.
When Brosnan's character Daniel approaches Moore's character Audrey — in an effort to draw them closer together — he applies logic to his appeal. He highlights the fact that they're both smart, spend a lot of time together and have common interests. Meanwhile, she shares solid logic in her rebuttal too. She cites statistics on the failing institution of marriage. They are, after all, divorce lawyers. Turns out, Aristotle was right. You can even apply logos to matters of the heart. Here's a quick excerpt.
Audrey: "We're just going to have to file when we get back to New York, ok. It'll be like it never happened."
Daniel: "But it did happen."
You probably wouldn't be surprised if somebody labeled the Architect from The Matrix as a highly logical fellow. And, of course, one would use the word "fellow" loosely, as the Architect is a highly specialized computer program that simply takes on the human essence during his encounter with Neo, as played by Keanu Reeves.
When meeting with the Architect, you were met with cold, emotionless, super analytical intelligence — nothing more, nothing less. He explains the logic of the situation and how he has been able to sustain the matrix for so long. It's safe to say if any "person" would embody strict logos, it would be the Architect himself.
The Architect: "The function of the One is now to return to the source, allowing a temporary dissemination of the code you carry, reinserting the prime program. After which you will be required to select from the matrix 23 individuals, 16 female, 7 male, to rebuild Zion. Failure to comply with this process will result in a cataclysmic system crash killing everyone connected to the matrix, which coupled with the extermination of Zion will ultimately result in the extinction of the entire human race."
Neo: "You won't let it happen, you can't. You need human beings to survive."
The Architect: "There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept."
Logic and magic aren't something you'd typically see together. However, logic is used in the world of Harry Potter. It's what helps to make it believable to the audience. One of the first places that you see logic is through Hagrid's first encounter with Harry.
Hagrid knows that he needs to convince Harry to come with him, despite the Dursley's refusal. To get him to Hogwarts, Hagrid has logic on his side. Harry can't deny that odd things have happened to him, so he can only assume he's truly a wizard using deductive logic.
Harry Potter: "You've made a mistake, I can't be a wizard. I mean, I'm just Harry, just Harry."
Hagrid: "Well, just Harry, did you ever make anything happen? Anything you couldn't explain, when you were angry or scared?"
All this leads us to speeches. Especially in persuasive speeches, logos can be a powerful tool. It's difficult to argue with cold hard facts or solid statistics. Let's look at two prominent members of American society for reference.
Susan B. Anthony came right out of the gate with logic in her speech. It's plainly written in the Constitution that we "the people," not we "white males" have certain inalienable rights. Just like Shakespeare's character in The Merchant of Venice, logic can be applied simply by taking words at their literal, face value. How could that be refuted?
The Constitution sure does say "we the people," not "we the men." Anthony then goes on to use forceful language. "It is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them." Indeed, Anthony had a leg to stand on and she used it well.
"It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people - women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government - the ballot."
Much like Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth also uses logos to appeal to the logical side of the crowd in her speech "Ain't I a Woman." Through valid arguments, she demonstrates why men and women should be treated equally. In addition to there not being a difference in the Constitution, Truth uses the Bible as backing to her argument. See an excerpt of logos at play.
"Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman!' Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them."
Former President Trump repeatedly tried to apply logic to his defense for a border wall between Mexico and the United States. He cited a statistic stating that 63,000 Americans have been killed by illegal immigrants since the 9/11 attacks. This statistic is meant to draw a straight, logical line between the crimes against Americans and the need for a border wall. Here's where the waters get murky. Liberal media outlets refuted this statistic, citing it as faulty. Meanwhile, one of the biggest conservative news outlets said the number of illegal immigrants that have entered the U.S. may be much higher than what's reported.
It kind of makes you think about George Orwell, doesn't it? There's no denying President Trump was applying logic to his argument. (Perhaps there was a little bit of an emotional appeal in there too.) However, some would say this is almost like Orwell's two plus two equals five example. See how logic can be manipulated.
"So here are just a few statistics on the human toll of illegal immigration. According to a 2011 government report, the arrests attached to the criminal alien population included an estimated 25,000 people for homicide, 42,000 for robbery, nearly 70,000 for sex offenses, and nearly 15,000 for kidnapping. In Texas alone, within the last seven years, more than a quarter-million criminal aliens have been arrested and charged with over 600,000 criminal offenses. … Sixty-three thousand Americans since 9/11 have been killed by illegal aliens. This isn't a problem that's going away; it's getting bigger."
Can you believe Aristotle lived from 384 to 322 B.C. and we're still quoting him today? There's good reason for his everlasting philosophy: it works. Although Aristotle carefully laid out three different methods of appeal — ethos, logos and pathos — he had a strong preference for one over the others.
Aristotle preferred cold hard facts over anything else. He wrote, "The arousing of prejudice, pity, anger, and similar emotions has nothing to do with the essential facts, but is merely a personal appeal to the man who is judging the case." In a way, Aristotle surmised that anything that wasn't built on logic couldn't stand the test of time.
He also wouldn't have paid much mind to examples of ethos (ethics), but those ranked higher than examples of pathos (emotion). Aristotle knew human nature would be bound to appeal to emotions time and time again, so his opinions didn't stop him from writing much on the subject. In truth, his work on ethos wouldn't fall on deaf ears. Even today, people make emotional and moral appeals regularly. The trouble is emotional appeals can tend toward ad hominem attacks. These arguments are based on feelings of prejudice rather than logic. In a way, our emotions can get us into trouble; that's why Aristotle preferred to stick with irrefutable facts over feelings which, as we know, are subject to change.
Shakespeare and Susan B. Anthony used logos well. They minced literal words and found themselves on the right side of logic (fictional and non-fictional logic). Beyond that, a good, solid statistic will generally support a sound, logical argument. (Unless the numbers are wrong.) Are you tasked with delivering a persuasive speech in the near future? Allow these steps for writing a persuasive speech to serve as a solid foundation for your inarguable use of logos.