What is logos? Logos is the logic and reasoning, or simulation of it, in a persuasive appeal. Yes, the word logic is derived from logos, so the logos proof would seem obvious… but once you start digging into it, logos is actually fairly complex.
There are many ways to appeal logically in an argument. The logical argument is the organization, rationality, reason, and language used to persuade someone. It can take on different forms and proof points. As always, keep your audience and channel in mind when crafting your logical appeal. Where they’re coming from will impact which methods you use. Consider these:
- Case studies
- Expert testimony
Even with these straight forward arguments, there is always an opportunity to present your logic in a compelling narrative. Keep your overarching story and your persuasive outcomes in mind when putting together the logical argument and then use the proof points as ways to solidify your argument. We will look at a few examples below, but first I wanted to talk about an important part of logic and reasoning.
Simulation of Logical Appeal
One word that may have jumped out at you in the first paragraph is simulation. We often think of logic and irrefutable, factual proof. “Simulation of logical appeal” is the important idea that any given logical appeal may work for some people, but not for others, depending on their perspective and life experiences. In other words, what may be a logical argument for one, may not add up for another.
Another simulation of logic to consider is logical fallacies. This is when an incorrect argument is made either due to a formal fallacy or informal. This subject is too deep to get into right now, but check out Wikipedia as a starting point to dive deeper. It’s amazing how many of these we use every day, and how persuasive they can be!
Why do we need logical arguments?
This quote from Paul Rahe on Aristotle is a nice additional proof point on the need for solid logical arguments:
For Aristotle, logos is something more refined than the capacity to make private feelings public: it enables the human being to perform as no other animal can; it makes it possible for him to perceive and make clear to others through reasoned discourse the difference between what is advantageous and what is harmful, between what is just and what is unjust, and between what is good and what is evil. (Source below.)
Logos in action
Examples of logical appeal are everywhere—from posters and informational websites to speeches and commercials. Out of the infinite choices, I’ve picked two to look at.
The first is the The Mighty Mouth website from Washington Dental Service Foundation.
Here is a great example of logical appeal using rationality, reason, and humor, along with cause and effect to back up its claims:
What I like about this appeal is the language is approachable, fun, and easy to understand, while the claims are clear and relatable (who doesn’t want fresh breath, a trip to Hawaii, or knows the pain of waiting for coffee to brew?). It would be even stronger if it had more statistics or a quote from a dentist (expert testimony), or a case study of someone who flossed and improved their health.
I pulled the second example from a speech President Obama gave in 2009, “A New Beginning,” at Cairo University in Egypt. The speech is long and deserves a rhetorical analysis in itself, but I wanted to focus on this bit:
Now much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores — and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average.
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1200 mosques within our borders. That’s why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab — and to punish those who would deny it.
So let there be no doubt — let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations — to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.
President Obama uses statistics, persuasive language, and anecdote about himself to relate to the audience and provide proof for his argument that Islam is a part of America.
As you can see, logos can get deep quickly! To get started, look through the lists of argument types above and think about what will be most impactful and convincing for your audience. Then keep your story in mind along with your speaker’s credibility and the emotional appeal to your audience (the first two topics in this series). When used together, all 3 proofs will make for an appeal that gets results. Stay tuned for more on that theme as we wrap up our Persuasion series.
SOURCE: Paul Anthony Rahe, Republics Ancient and Modern: The Ancien Régime in Classical Greece, University of North Carolina Press, 1994, ISBN 0-8078-4473-X, p. 21.