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.
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 ol' fashioned logic. And that's where logos enters the scene. Let's take a look at some examples of logos for further emphasis.
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.
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 two examples.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 two 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 rivalries in the courtroom.
When Brosnan's character approaches Moore's character - 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.
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.
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.
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.
Susan B. Anthony came right out of the gate with it. 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.
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.
President Trump repeatedly tries to apply logic to his defense for a border wall between Mexico and the United States. He cites a statistic which states 63,000 Americans have been killed by illegal immigrants since the 9/11.
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 refute this statistic, citing it as faulty. Meanwhile, one of the biggest conservative news outlets says the number of illegal immigrants that have entered the US 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. Does truth reign in politics?
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 to your inarguable use of logos.