The third main form of persuasion that Heinrichs discusses in Thank You for Arguing is logos, from the Greek word meaning “word.” In modern times, logos refers to an argument that appeals to an audience’s sense and reason.
Most of the book’s discussion of logos consists of defining what does and doesn’t constitute a “rational” argument. First, the book sketches out the two main forms of logic. Deductive logic is concerned with studying the relationship between different interrelated groups and categories through the mathematical concept of the syllogism (i.e., “if A is B, and if B is C, then A is C”). Inductive logic, the other main branch of logic in rhetoric, studies the process of drawing conclusions from multiple, interconnected examples—for example, one could use inductive logic to examine many different “examples” of human life and conclude that all humans will die eventually. A thorough study of logic allows the student of rhetoric to identify logical fallacies—rhetorical statements that break the rules of logic. One such logical fallacy is the bad example, in which the persuader illogically generalizes from a small amount of evidence (or, put another way, uses faulty inductive logic). Another is the red herring, in which the persuader offers up misleading premises to reach an unrelated conclusion (that is, using faulty deductive logic). All logical fallacies violate the rules of inductive or deductive logic in some way, and by studying logic, a good rhetorician can out-reason their opponent and prevent the opponent from drawing the wrong conclusions.
Although Heinrichs emphasizes the importance of deduction and induction in rhetoric, it’s crucial to recognize that there is a difference between logos and logic—and, more to the point, a different between rhetoric and logic. While logical fallacies exemplify errors in formal logic, many accepted techniques of logos are actually mild logical fallacies themselves. In this sense, logos isn’t a list of what is and isn’t strictly logical, but rather a guide to what one’s audience will interpret as a reasonable point. Perhaps the key difference between logic and a logos-focused argument is that, in the latter, the argument doesn’t end if someone commits a logical fallacy—even if an opponent points out the fallacy, the argument continues, with both sides appealing to their audience’s sense of logos, ethos, and pathos. Heinrichs likens the art of rhetoric to a soccer game in which there are no hard rules, other than scoring: it’s much more productive (and much more fun) to keeping playing such a game, using opponents’ logical fallacies against them, than it is to “call foul” whenever somebody commits such a fallacy. If anything, the study of logos, as distinct from logic, proves that there is no such thing as an unbeatable, perfectly rational argument. All rational arguments have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the art of logos helps a good rhetorician recognize which weaknesses to exploit. Moreover, logos is only one third of a good rhetorician’s arsenal: a great speaker will use reason, character, and emotion to beat opponents and convince as many people as possible.
Logos Quotes in Thank You for Arguing
In the 1980s, conservatives called up the image of the “welfare cheat” who claims nonexistent children and lives high on the government dole. The political right repeated this message in speeches and ads until it was difficult for many Americans to see welfare as anything but a rip-off.
CANDIDATE: I'm a successful businessman. Elect me mayor and I'll run a successful city.
So the guy made a lot of money in business. The problem is that City Hall is not a business. Many entrepreneurs have successful political careers, but at least as many do not.
Pure logic works like organized kids’ soccer: it follows strict rules, and no one gets hurt. Argument allows tackling. You wouldn't want to put yourself in a game where the opposing team gets to tackle while your team plays hands-off. That’s what happens when you stick to logic in day-to-day argument; you play by the rules, and your opponents get to tackle you. While it is important to know how to spot and answer a logical fallacy, if you limit yourself to simply pointing them out, your opponents will clobber you. Rhetoric allows logical fallacies, unless they distract a debate or turn it into a fight.
Here’s a secret that applies to all kinds of rhetorical defense: look for the disconnects.
But here’s a secret to make a cliché practically reinvent itself: take it literally.
OPPONENT: Let's not put the cart before the horse.
YOU: No. We might try something faster.
America’s forty-third president, George W. Bush, deserves a special place in the rhetorical pantheon owing to his particular talent for code grooming. The candidates who followed him have been more articulate than Bush, but they still have a lot to learn from the man. Pundits loved to talk about his Christian code, but religion formed only a part of his grooming lingo. He also had his male code, his female code, and his military code.
“Love” and “support” are superb code words that test well among women voters, sexist as that may sound; it's a bit risky to use it on the man’s wife, though, especially if she earns the steady income. But by evoking her mother, he creates a forgiving environment that brings the couple closer together in love, harmony, and shameless manipulation.
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.
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.
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.
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.