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.
Pathos Quotes in Thank You for Arguing
Everyone lusts after something. If you can suss out the desire, exploit the lust, dangle the carrot, then you can bridge the gap.
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.
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.
[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.”
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.