Thank You for Arguing

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Pathos Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Ethos Theme Icon
Pathos Theme Icon
Logos Theme Icon
Demonstrative vs. Deliberative Rhetoric Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Ethics Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Thank You for Arguing, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Pathos Theme Icon

The second important form of persuasion that Heinrichs discusses in Thank You for Arguing is pathos, the ancient Greek word for an argument based on emotion. Emotion is perhaps the most powerful, and most disrespected, form of persuasion: most of the time, to characterize an argument as a purely emotional appeal is to criticize that argument. But human beings are emotional creatures, so no book on rhetoric would be complete without a thorough analysis of how emotions can convince people to make decisions, and how rhetoricians can train themselves to both make emotional appeals and resist these appeals.

Over the course of the book, Heinrichs discusses many different human emotions, and the kinds of emotional appeals that correspond to each one of them. He agrees with the great rhetoricians of the ancient world that humor is probably the most powerful kind of emotional appeal, since laughter is involuntary. Even if humor is the most powerful emotional appeal, however, it’s not always the most effective. Often, appeals to an audience’s anger, patriotism, or desire to “fit in” prove more successful in compelling a group to actually do something. For example, Heinrichs discusses the ways that skilled rhetoricians can manipulate a crowd into becoming angry with a specific figure, especially if the rhetorician implies that the figure has ignored or belittled the audience’s needs. A skilled rhetorician can also inspire an audience by appealing to people’s desire to go along with the group—a desire that becomes more powerful as the group gets bigger. At the same time as he categorizes different emotional appeals, Heinrichs discusses which media (forms of communication) are best-suited for each kind of emotion. For example, a speech before a big crowd might be a good venue for an appeal to people’s desire to fit in with the group, while an intimate, candle-lit dinner would be the better time and place for a passionate marriage proposal. In all, Heinrichs’s discussion of emotion and emotional appeals highlights a counterintuitive truth: although emotions themselves are involuntary, emotional appeals can be carefully planned and rehearsed for maximum effect.

Appeals to pathos are often criticized for being “cheap” or sappy. But for better or worse, human beings are hard-wired to respond to emotional cues. By studying the rhetorical art of eliciting pathos, then, people can improve their communication skills in a few distinct ways. First, they can learn how to control other people’s emotions—a practice which could easily be considered manipulative (and which, Heinrichs often admits, is inherently manipulative). Second, however, people can learn how to resist cheap emotional appeals, breaking down the steps in an appeal to pathos until the appeal no longer clouds their decision-making so completely. Third, the study of pathos can help people express their emotions in a clear manner, without necessarily sacrificing any sincerity. In this sense, pathos isn’t “cheap” at all—it’s an invaluable, subtle way for people to communicate how they feel.

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Pathos Quotes in Thank You for Arguing

Below you will find the important quotes in Thank You for Arguing related to the theme of Pathos.
Chapter 9 Quotes

Everyone lusts after something. If you can suss out the desire, exploit the lust, dangle the carrot, then you can bridge the gap.

Related Characters: Jay Heinrichs (speaker)
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Heinrichs articulates some of the aims and tactics of the advertising industry—arguably the contemporary institution that makes use of rhetoric most successful and frequently. Ad agencies know how to appeal to people’s desires; indeed, they spend billions of dollars every year determining what, precisely, people want. Then they find ways to associate their products with people’s desires.

Notice that Heinrichs isn’t judging the process by which advertisers sell their products. However, it wouldn’t be hard to conclude that advertising is an unethical industry—in effect, it manipulates people into buying things that they don’t really need, to satisfy desires that have nothing, fundamentally, to do with the product itself. In his book, Heinrichs shows readers how to see through the cheap trickery of the advertising industry, but also how to participate in this kind of trickery, using the tools of rhetoric to persuade and even manipulate other people.

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Chapter 10 Quotes

Early in my publishing career, I worked for a small magazine that had no fact checkers. When Mount St. Helens erupted for the first time, I wrote a short news piece in which I cluelessly placed the volcano in Oregon. I didn't realize my mistake until after the magazine was published and a reader pointed it out to me. I walked into the editor's office and closed the door.
Me: (looking stricken): I've got bad news, Bill. Really bad news.

Related Characters: Jay Heinrichs (speaker)
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Heinrichs discusses one unconventional method of persuasion, using his own career as an example. In an article he wrote, Heinrichs placed Mount Saint Helens in the wrong state, resulting in a slightly embarrassing error in his magazine. But instead of waiting for his boss to find out about the mistake and yell at him, Heinrichs preempts his own punishment and tells his boss about the mistake upfront, claiming that his mistake was “really bad.” The tactic works well, and Heinrichs’ boss tells Heinrichs not to be so hard on himself.

Heinrichs’ style of apology is a particularly clever form of concession, a rhetorical maneuver that involves agreeing with an opponent’s point. Heinrichs manages to avoid any serious punishment for his mistake by agreeing with any potential criticism he might have faced from his boss—instead of waiting for his boss to tell him he did a bad job, he says so himself. In so doing, Heinrichs takes control over the exchange with his boss and steers clear of any punishment—a great example of how rhetoric can improve one’s career.

Chapter 16 Quotes

Here’s a secret that applies to all kinds of rhetorical defense: look for the disconnects.

Related Characters: Jay Heinrichs (speaker)
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter Sixteen, Heinrichs writes about the tactics of the typical American salesman: in particular, the practice of building an unspoken connection with a client, based on disinterest (i.e., the salesman supposedly acting out of selfless concern for the client, rather than a selfish desire to turn a profit). From the client’s perspective, it’s important to understand these tactics in order to avoid being manipulated by them. As Heinrichs puts it, the audience should try to recognize the disconnects in an argument—in other words, the steps in an argument that remain unstated, or, to return to the salesman and the client, the gap between what the salesman wants and what the client wants. In recognizing the disconnects, a good audience member can understand more clearly how rhetorical manipulation works.

The passage emphasizes that Heinrichs is writing both for rhetoricians and for audience members: by learning about rhetoric, his readers can become better persuaders themselves while also building up an immunity to persuasive tactics.

Chapter 25 Quotes

Cicero says I should be prepared to argue both sides of the case, starting with my opponent’s pitch. This means spending some time imagining what he will say. I’m guessing he will talk about values a lot—the rights and freedoms that a noise ordinance will trample upon.

Related Characters: Jay Heinrichs (speaker), Marcus Tullius Cicero
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter 25, Heinrichs talks about a hypothetical speech he might make at a town hall meeting, in which he argues that local townspeople shouldn’t use leaf blowers, since the noise is distracting. Throughout the chapter, Heinrichs talks about the classical structure of a speech, as articulated by Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman politican and rhetorician. Here, Heinrichs honors one of Cicero’s rules by planning to anticipate his opponent’s argument during his own speech. Heinrichs will preempt his opponent’s discussion of rights and freedoms by arguing that leaf blowers interfere with homeowners’ freedoms to enjoy their own property. In doing so, he’ll take the wind out of his unfortunate opponent’s sails and gain a major advantage in the debate.

Chapter 26 Quotes

[Obama] tells the story of parents—a goatherd who went on to study in America, a woman born “on the other side of the world, in Kenya” and ends with a moral that links his character with the American way: “l stand here knowing that my story is a part of the larger American story,” he says. “This is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people.”

Related Characters: Jay Heinrichs (speaker), Barack Obama (speaker)
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter 26, Heinrichs talks about a modern master of rhetoric, Barack Obama. Obama’s political career was full of memorable speeches, so it’s worthwhile to consider what rhetorical devices Obama used. Here, Heinrichs talks about the speech that first put Obama on a national stage, the speech he delivered at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In the speech, Obama began by talking about his own heritage as the son of an immigrant father, and connects his own life with commonplace American values. In doing so, Heinrichs shows, Obama follows the format of a Ciceronian oration, and also connects with his audience, building trust and respect for himself. By using President Obama as an example of rhetorical talent, Heinrichs emphasizes the point that rhetoric, even if it’s not particularly popular or commonly taught in America, is still a valuable skill.

Chapter 27 Quotes

First, though, think how you want to present that memo. Should it be printed and bound with a clear plastic binder? Or emailed as an attachment? If the boss is no reader, would he let you give a PowerPoint presentation? Or email one to him? That’s kairos again—timing plus medium.

Related Characters: Jay Heinrichs (speaker)
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter 27, Heinrichs discusses more practical applications of the art of rhetoric. Heinrichs writes for a primarily business-focused audience (which explains why so many of his examples revolve around the workplace). An employee who’s trying to impress a boss should use the art of rhetoric to craft a persuasive memo, which exploits the “right time,” or kairos, and conveys the proper blend of logos, pathos, and ethos. One of Heinrichs’ major points in Thank You for Arguing is that different forms of communication favor different rhetorical appeals; for example, a phone call often favors a rational, logical appeal, while Skyping would favor a more ethos-oriented appeal. Understanding the underlying forms of persuasion can help people gain a major advantage in their lives, particularly at work.

Chapter 28 Quotes

The founders weren’t starry-eyed about their republic. [They] believed that the symptoms could be ameliorated by the combination of checks and balances and the “cool, candid” arbitration of the liberally educated professional class.

Related Characters: Jay Heinrichs (speaker)
Page Number: 323
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final chapter of Thank You for Arguing, Heinrichs makes his most eloquent and ambitious argument for the continued relevance of rhetoric. Situating rhetoric in a lengthy American tradition of democracy and freedom, Heinrichs suggests that the Founding Fathers believed that rhetoric would be a crucial component of the United States of America, and even suggested that politicians and leaders needed rhetoric to work together. In other words, the system of checks and balances that’s essential to American government can only function smoothly when politicians use the arts of logos, ethos, and pathos to convince people to cooperate with them and reach compromises. One could say that deliberative rhetoric is the art of reaching a compromise in order to move things forward, and the Founding Fathers supported the use of strong deliberative rhetoric. In the 21st century, when the different branches of government and political parties refuse to work together much of the time, people would do well to remember the importance of rhetoric in American history.

It is no coincidence that red and blue America split apart just when moral issues began to dominate campaigns—not because one side has morals and the other lacks them, but because values cannot be the sole subject of deliberative argument. Of course, demonstrative language—code grooming and values talk—works to bring an audience together and make it identify with you and your point of view. But eventually a deliberative argument has to get—well, deliberative.

Related Characters: Jay Heinrichs (speaker)
Page Number: 325
Explanation and Analysis:

Heinrichs continues to argue for the importance of rhetoric in general and deliberative rhetoric in particular in American politics. Too often, politicians fight with one another over basic moral values. While moral values are obviously important, Heinrichs suggests that a more productive form of argument would revolve around choices and actions, situated in the future tense. Politicians made a huge tactical error when they framed global warming in primarily moral terms; in doing so, they forced their opponents to frame their own opposition in conflicting moral terms, leading to a stalemate on the issue of global warming. By embracing deliberative rhetoric, politicians could reach compromises and undo the stereotype that politics is a dull, tedious business where nothing ever gets done—just one of the many useful applications of rhetoric that Heinrichs talks about in his book.