Ethos in Aristotle and Beyond

About Ethos

Ethos is the most important of Aristotle's three forms of proof, the other two being pathos and logos. Where pathos is proof by means of the hearers when roused to emotion by the speech, and logos is proof by means of the speech itself, when arguments are established from the means of persuasion applicable to the subject, ethos is proof by means of the character of the speaker, as established in the speech. In cases where there is no certainty, the character of the speaker is the sole source of confidence. (Rhetoric I.2.3-7).

Aristotle noted that one gains ethos by studying those who already have it.

Contemporary Usages of Ethos:
Reinforce or repair the speaker’s reputation.
Use the speaker’s reputation to endorse the subject or purpose of the speech.
Reinforce, repair, or attack someone else’s reputation.
Induce audience identification with the speaker’s goals.

There are three aspects of the speaker's character that produce persuasion:

  • phronesis (intelligence)
  • arete (excellence)
  • eunoia (good will)



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