Monday, September 27, 2010

Response to Reading Six

Chapter six in Ancient Rhetoric for Contemporary Students focused on ethical proofs, or the rhetorical element "ethos." As taught in nearly all beginning-level college English classes, there are three rhetorical devices: ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos is, in my opinion, one of the most important devices. Ethos refers to proofs that rely on the rhetor's expertise or reputation about the topic in which their argument is based. While it was established in early Classical Rhetoric, I believe this element to be most important for contemporary audiences.

"As early as the fourth century B.C.E., Greek teachers of rhetoric gave suggestions about how a person's character (Greek ethos) could be put to persuasive uses, and rhetorical theorists continued to discuss the sues of ethical proofs throughout the history of ancient rhetoric" (Crowley and Hawhee 195).

While the contemporary analysis of ethos is quite reflective of the earliest methods of analysis, I think that it carries more weight nowadays in addition to some changes in meaning. Early rhetoricians had to have credence to their arguments or no one would attend their lectures. Additionally, ancient criteria were far more character-based as opposed to knowledge-based. An individual's "goodness" meant a great deal centuries ago. Essentially, personality could go a long way. And quite interestingly, early rhetors were far more prideful in descriptions of themselves, often giving ethical credibility to themselves. This is an interesting concept for modern audiences, who condone comments that a too boastful. In general, present-day definitions of ethos can be quite varied from ancient versions.

"The modern term 'personality' does not quite capture all the senses of the ancient Greek term ethos, since it carried moral overtones and since, for the Greek a character was created by a person's habits and reputation rather than be her experiences" (Crowley and Hawhee 195).

In a period with such accessibility to technology, rhetoric has become the communication of everyday individuals. Anyone with slight computer understanding, literacy, and an ability to type can be a rhetor. And, anyone with similar knowledge can be the audience. In the world of internet, ethos as become remarkably important. Individuals cannot trust that this everyday rhetor is actually knowledgeable of the topic; in some cases, they might completely lead you astray. Ethos demands that the author have experience or their rhetoric is relatively meaningless. Whereas Classical Rhetoric focused on character, Modern Rhetoric focuses on experience. In order to select the most truthful argument in a "tower of babble," so to speak, audiences must rely on ethos.

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