Komunikacijske vještine

Theoretical background

Greek philosopher Aristotle divides persuasion skills into three basic categories:

  • ethos
  • logos
  • pathos (Aristotle, 2010).

Those categories are today as fundamental to every argumentative speech as they were two thousand years ago. Let us then take a closer look at each of them.

Ethos refers to credibility, or ethical appeal, based on the speaker’s character. People generally believe (more) to those they respect. Accordingly, one of the three main problems of persuasion is to make an impression that the speaker is a person worth listening to. The impression can be based on the expertise in the field being presented, as well as on general human values such as honesty. Of course, the best impression is achieved by combining those two qualities. For example, when it comes to the issue of nuclear power plants security, most people will believe the winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, who is also known as a moral and honest person.

Pathos refers to emotions, namely to persuasion based on the listeners’ emotions. Persuasive appeal of pathos comes out of the audience’s sense of identity, their interest and their emotions. In some rare examples that appeal is a direct result of a person’s individual interest. For instance, while debating at the Zagreb Polytechnic IT Department about some restrictions imposed on car drivers younger than 24 (it is important to note that most of the students involved in the debate were younger than 24), we never came to conclusion that the additional restrictions should be introduced. Relying on identity, on the other hand, is not directly connected with personal interests. However, is there anyone who thinks of himself/herself that (s)he is not a good person? Therefore, the argument such as Every good person would do that!, provided it is not too obvious, is very convincing.

Finally, logos refers to persuading by the use of arguments. Aristotle regarded logos as the most important persuasion technique and that attitude has remained unchanged till present days. So, in our further work we will mostly deal with logosom. Basically, logos logos is a persuasion skill grounded on accurate, valid facts, which are logically related. One typical example is a choice of car based on the price and fuel consumption, and another is selection of optional subject at faculty based on the number of ECTS credits. (Durham Technical Community College, 2012).

Table 1 (Callaway, 2012) shows a relation between ethos, logos and pathos.

Ethos Logos Pathos
Language appropriate to audience and topic

Fair-minded, open presentation

Suitable vocabulary

Correct grammar

Theoretical, abstract language

Doslovne analogije


Facts and statistics


Opinion of experts and authoritative sources

Informed opinion

Vivid, concrete language

Emotional language

Connotative meanings

Emotional examples

Vivid descriptions

Descriptions of emotional events

Emotional tone

Figurative language


Points out to credibility and competence of the author, to the respect of ideas and values of the audience by credibility and appropriate use of arguments, and to general accuracy.

Evokes cognitive, rational response. Evokes emotional response.

Examples of ethos, logos and pathos

In order to give a more detailed description of differences between ethos, logos and pathos, I took a selection of important political speeches founded on each of the persuasion skill categories. The examples were selected by Michael Callaway of Arizona State University(ibid).


Let us begin with a simple assumption: What democracy requires is public debate, not information. Of course it needs information too, but the kind of information it needs can be generated only by vigorous popular debate. We do not know until we ask the right questions, and we can identify the right questions only by subjecting our own ideas about the world to the test of public controversy. Information, usually seen as the precondition of debate, is better understood by its byproduct. When we get into arguments that focus and fully engage our attention, we become avid seekers of relevant information. Otherwise, we take in information passively – if we take it at all.

Christopher Lasch: The Lost Art of Political Argument


My Dear Fellow Clergymen,

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities ‘unwise and untimely.’ (…) But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against ‘outsiders coming in.’ (…) So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.””

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Letter from Birmingham Jail

(Author’s note: ML King alludes to the scene in The Acts of the Apostles when a vision appeared to
Paul one night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “”Come over to
Macedonia and help us.”” After receiving the call, Paul and his companions changed their plan,
responded immediately and sought to go there. Macedonian call has become a metaphor for every
evangeliser who feels his mission is not finished until all the people hear his message)


For me, commentary on war zones at home and abroad begins and ends with personal reflections. A few years ago, while watching the news in Chicago, a local news story made a personal connection with me. The report concerned a teenager who had been shot because he had angered a group of his male peers. This act of violence caused me to recapture a memory from my own adolescence because of an instructive parallel in my own life with this boy who had been shot. When I was a teenager some thirty-five years ago in the New York metropolitan area, I wrote a regular column for my high school newspaper. One week, I wrote a column in which I made fun of the fraternities in my high school. As a result, I elicited the anger of some of the most aggressive teenagers in my high school. A couple of nights later, a car pulled up in front of my house, and the angry teenagers in the car dumped garbage on the lawn of my house as an act of revenge and intimidation.

James Garbarino: Children in a Violent World: A Metaphysical Perspective


Aristotle (2010). Rhetorics. Adelaide: University of Adelaide. Text available here. Croatian translation of the book is available in all better supplied libraries and book shops.

Callaway, M. (2012). Logos, Ethos and Pathos. Phoenix: Arizona State University. Text available here.

Durham Technical Community College (2012). A General Summary of Aristotle’s Appeals . . . Durham: Durham Technical Community College. Text available here.