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Aristotle’s Artistic Proofs in President Barack Obama's Address

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Words: 1524 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2020

Words: 1524|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2020

As we get older, we realize that not many things in life are timeless, but rather fads. That shirt that was trendy in high school, or that band that was always on the radio. Trends come and go, but ethos pathos logos is here to stay. Aristotle’s three artistic proofs are what many like to call timeless. Every great speech in history has had these three artistic proofs in one way or another. Aristotle created these proofs in ancient Greece, and today in 2018 they are just relevant and have become the backbone to what it means to create a timeless speech. The three artistic proofs are often found in advertisements trying to convince the mass audience to buy this or don’t do that. While they can work well in ads, they are most effective in the political sphere. “Politics is often defined as the art of government; in that sence, the central aim of political interaction can be stated as persuasion” (Demirdogen,2010).

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We will be looking at President Barack Obama’s address from September 10th, 2013 and explaining how he used these three artistic proofs and how Aristotle’s artistic proofs are still a timeless way of creating an argument and writing a speech. Before ethos, pathos and logos can be compared to contemporary times, we first must understand where it came from. In ancient Greece, Aristotle came up with the three artistic proofs. These proofs are under the cannon of Invention, one of five different cannons in rhetoric. The cannon of Invention “has divided invention into three areas: stasis, the search for issues; proof, the support for the claims; and topoi, common arguments the rhetoric can summon in different situations. ” (Borchers, 2018). Aristotle believed that there are two different types of proofs artistic and inartistic proofs. Inartistic proofs are proofs only understood by the rhetor. These are factual appeals that are uncontrollable. Inartistic proofs range from laws and contracts to witness testimony. The second type of proof, the ones that Aristotle was more interested in, was artistic proof: ethos pathos, and logos.

Ethos is the first of Aristotle’s artistic proofs and uses the idea that in order to be a persuasive speaker you must be a credible speaker. In order to be a credible speaker, you must be of good character, speak ethically, possess common sense, and care about your audience. If the audience senses these things they will know that the speaker is being truthful and what they are saying is trustworthy allowing them to be better persuaded. Essentially the speaker needs to show that they are qualified to speak on a particular subject. Three qualities are necessary: “practical wisdom [phronesis], virtue [arete], and good will [eunoia]” (Borchers 2018) If Kim Kardashian gave a speech on how the United States federal government should substantially change its nuclear weapons strategy, her credibility as a speaker would be very low because her wisdom [phronesis] would be in question. If she gave a speech on social media and the importance of it, then her credibility would be much higher.

Logos is the second of Aristotle’s artistic proofs and uses the idea that in order to be a persuasive speaker you must support your argument with strong evidence and reasoning. In order to effectively support your argument, you must have a logical and rational argument that is clearly supported by strong evidence and proper reasoning. If the audience sees the evidence that supports your claim they will likely be persuaded by the validity of your claims. Logos is the appeal to intellect or reason. “For Aristotle logos is rational, logical and argumentative discourse. ”(Mschvenieradze, 2013) Aristotle believed that there are two ways to present logos, either with induction or deduction reasoning. Inductive reasoning is using pattern examples then generalizing to come up with an answer. Deductive reasoning is taking some set of data or some set of facts and using that to come up with other facts that you know are true. When you generalize, you do not necessarily know that the trend will continue, but you assume it will. With deductive reasoning you know it will be true. You’re starting with facts you are deducing other facts from those facts. When you are using deductive reasoning, you are relying on enthymemes, a type of syllogism. A syllogism is a series of three statements that goes from generalization to a particular case and then finally a conclusion. (Borchers, 2018).

Finally, the third artistic proof is pathos. Pathos is the appeal to emotion and the tone of the speech or writing. When using ethos, the speaker must understand their audience. Aristotle believed it is impossible to connect with the audience emotionally. The speaker must understand the emotions of their audience to persuade them. Pathos in contemporary times has become the primary driving force in speeches. Our current president, having no history in politics, will use ethos quite frequently. In his inaugural speech, he uses pathos to appeal to the audience. “We will get our people off welfare and back to work. We will follow two simple rules, buy American and hire American. ” (trump, 2016). The art of persuasion has been boiled down to only using pathos. Catering to the emotions rather than intelligence, pathos has become the means and ends in political speeches. (Wrobel, 2015). Although the three artistic proofs have not changed, uses of it have. Political and persuasive speeches have relied on pathos rather than all three proofs. We have people on the internet who use emotion as the only way to persuade their own audience. Websites like Infowars will use a tragic event like the Sandyhook shootings and say that it was a conspiracy if only to get a few extra clicks on their website. Even though some politicians are not using all three proofs when constructing an argument, great speakers continue to use the artistic proofs ethos pathos and logos. A fitting example would be former president Barack Obamas address to the United States people and Congress regarding the chemical attacks in Syria in 2013. President Obama uses ethos pathos and logos to convince Congress and the American people that an attack on Syrian government is the best plan of action. There are two types of ethos, preliminary and discourse ethos. “Preliminary ethos is what the audience knows about the speaker, their authority, marital status education”.

Presidents Obama clearly states his authority in his address. “That is my judgment as Commander-in-Chief. However, I am also the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy” (Obama, 2013). His wisdom, virtue, and goodwill are never put into question. Discourse ethos is “ethos created immediately for the specific situation and during the discourse. ” (Mshvenieradze, 2013). In this speech, it can be him speaking in a presidential address. This formal display of President Obama gives him ethos before he talks. “Pathos is directly linked with an audience” (Mshvenieradze, 2013), and President Obama knew this as he spoke. During his address to the nation, he paints a horrible image of bodies lay in a row killed by sarin gas. Fathers are clutching their children begging them to move. “On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons, and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off-limits — a crime against humanity, and a violation of the laws of war. ” (Obama, 2013). His effective use of pathos appeals to any parent watching the address. President Obama was able to understand what his audience, the American people, was feeling and was able to effectively translated that emotion into action. He was able to evoke fear, anger, and empathy with this portion of his address. What sets this speech apart from others is President Obama’s use of logos. He uses deductive reasoning, syllogisms, and enthymemes.

During the speech, he explains why he knows that the government was responsible. He tells that the government had mixed chemicals to make the sarin gas. How they distributed gas masks to troops and how they shot rockets and then hospitals filled with patients. He again does this when he uses deductive reasoning. He paints the picture of the United States doing nothing and how it could lead American troops being gassed and Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. This speech is just one example of how President Obama was able to use Aristotle’s artistic proofs and use them in the 21st century. We learn that conducting effective arguments still requires a rhetor who use all three proofs effectively. A speaker who chooses to just use one of these proofs is shortchanging their speech and their case. Aristotle’s artistic proofs have not changed in the time since he created them and it is for a good reason too. This is a timeless way of conducting an argument and convincing others of your case.

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To write a great speech you need all three proofs. You need ethos to establish credibility with your audience. Without this, you will fail to grab their attention and your speech is dead in the water before you even speak. You need pathos to emotionally connect to your audience. This is key, especially if you try to convince a person that disagrees with your position. You finally need logos to show them with fact and evidence that your plan is best. “Argumentation is best used when the speaker backs up their claims so that they persuade the audience in their favor. ” (Mshvenieradze, 2013). The three artistic proofs show that the speaker or writer must persuade and not dictate their will. The speaker needs to be able to reason logically, understand human character and understand emotions. The concept of Aristotle’s artistic proofs is taught in an introduction argumentation course because it lays the foundation for effective persuasion. President Obama recognized that using this timeless rhetoric Is what is going to convince the American people to stand by him.

Works Cited

  1. Borchers, T. (2018). Rhetorical Theory: An Introduction. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
  2. Demirdogen, M. (2010). Persuasion in politics: Aristotle on rhetoric. Trakia Journal of Sciences, 8(1), 67-73.
  3. Kennedy, G. A. (2007). Aristotle On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. Mschvenieradze, T. (2013). The Art of Persuasion: Ethos, Pathos, Logos. Axiomathes, 23(3), 433-445.
  5. Obama, B. (2013). Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Syria. Retrieved from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/10/remarks-president-address-nation-syria
  6. Perelman, C. (1982). The Realm of Rhetoric. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
  7. Plato. (2006). Gorgias. (J. Cooper & J. Annas, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  8. Quintilian. (2002). Institutio Oratoria. (H. E. Butler, Trans.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  9. Ramus, P. (1996). Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  10. Wrobel, S. (2015). The Rhetoric of Emotion: The Art of Pathos in Political Persuasion. Journal of Politics & Society, 26(2), 137-152.
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Aristotle’s Artistic Proofs: Ethos Pathos and Logos, Timeless Rhetoric. (2022, Jun 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/aristotles-artistic-proofs-ethos-pathos-and-logos-timeless-rhetoric/
“Aristotle’s Artistic Proofs: Ethos Pathos and Logos, Timeless Rhetoric.” GradesFixer, 29 Jun. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/aristotles-artistic-proofs-ethos-pathos-and-logos-timeless-rhetoric/
Aristotle’s Artistic Proofs: Ethos Pathos and Logos, Timeless Rhetoric. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/aristotles-artistic-proofs-ethos-pathos-and-logos-timeless-rhetoric/> [Accessed 13 Apr. 2024].
Aristotle’s Artistic Proofs: Ethos Pathos and Logos, Timeless Rhetoric [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2024 Apr 13]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/aristotles-artistic-proofs-ethos-pathos-and-logos-timeless-rhetoric/
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