The Rhetorical Triangle and Three Rhetorical Appeals
David Wright, Furman University English Department
(printable version here)
Aristotle defined rhetoric as "the ability to see or identify in any given circumstance the available means of persuasion.” Analyzing rhetoric focuses on the "how" and "why" of persuasion rather than what specific things people say or write in order to be persuasive. One way of breaking down the components of a rhetorical strategy is to use the Rhetorical Triangle. This model puts into a generalized framework the interactions among various actors and devices in persuasion. The Three Rhetorical Appeals are the main strategies used to persuade an audience and are also important devices to understand when constructing or deconstructing an argument.
Professor David Wright of Furman University has created a short but comprehensive video (shown below) explaining the Rhetorical Triangle and Three Appeals and how to utilize them in analysis.
You can also see the video on Youtube.
Transcribed notes:1. The Rhetorical Triangle allows you to effectively analyze different texts an arguments for their rhetorical strategies and devices. The model shapes the rhetorical process into manageable and distinct parts through the Rhetorical Triangle and Three Rhetorical Appeals:
2. Rhetorical Triangle: made up of three components which are present in any persuasive process:
3. Rhetorical Appeals: the three main avenues by which people are persuaded.
Further Explanation of the Three Appeals:
Logos: An appeal to logic.
When a writer today employs logos, s/he might draw upon statistics, credible sources, arguments premised on reason, and the inherent logic of a situation. Consider this claim in a student paper about heart disease and pork-rind consumption:
Pathos: Appeals to emotion are common in non-academic writing but tend to distort factual evidence.
From our pork-rind paper:
Pathos-based appeals can play on fears or other emotions. Advertising has elevated the use of pathos to a very fine art.
Ethos: Can rely on reputation or experiences to prove a point. Credibility is key to winning an audience's belief and support for one's argument.
Again, from the same paper:
Both Ms. Diggler and Dr. Smarte use ethos to make their claims; Smarte also employs logos (the claims about what the rinds contain). Diggler's plea could be seen as employing pathos to sway the lawmakers.