Logos is one of three main persuasive techniques as categorised by Aristotle:
- ETHOS: The writer makes sure they sound credible.
- PATHOS: The writer appeals to audience emotion.
- LOGOS: The audience appeals to reason.
Examples of persuasive texts:
- advertising (buy this!)
- opinion pieces
- letters to the editor
- speeches to political representatives
ETHOS, PATHOS & LOGOS
FICTION RELIES MORE HEAVILY ON PATHOS THAN LOGOS AND ETHOS
Fiction is not a ‘persuasive text’ in the sense Aristotle was talking about. In fiction, making an argument is not the main point.
However, fiction is still persuasive. Fiction isn’t persuading you to buy a new car or to change a particular aspect of law or to vote for a particular party in a certain election, but fiction nevertheless persuades, mainly by means of entertainment. You could argue that fiction is the most persuasive form of text because it persuades at a deeper level.
A good story first persuades readers to keep turning the page. Beyond that, fiction persuades readers to think about big ideas — themes — and what it means for humans to lead a decent life.
LOGOS IN FICTION
Fiction writers know a lot about pathos — how to evoke emotions in their audience. But some types of story benefit from persuasive techniques more akin to logos.
For example, in cosmic horror, a fictional narrator may be doing their best to persuade the audience that such-and-such unbelievable thing really happened. In this case, the author may make use of fictional statistics, charts and maps.
Fiction authors may also make use of real-world statistics, charts and places on real maps in an attempt to blur the boundary between reality and fiction, creating an immersive, perhaps terrifying experience for the audience.
Other forms of storytelling deliberately set out to convince audiences that a fictional story is true, namely tall tales. Tellers of tall tales will frequently make use of logos, appealing to logic, before illuminating the gullibility of the listener in a game of one-upmanship.
A number of literary traditions descend from the tall tale tradition. Gulliver’s Travels almost fits into the category. Mark Twain was a master. Also, the potboiler Western is full of the type of braggadocio which requires the initial suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience.
If you’re reading a story which opens with a lengthy description of place, social customs, or lists many details, you’re being asked, as a member of the audience, to imagine this place, time and time really exists. Once you’re in this almost hypnotic (alert but hypnagogic) mental state, you’re primed to be affected by the main persuasive technique of the storyteller: pathos.