Do character and passion count in rhetoric?

Aristotle would say that a user of rhetoric may never rely on words alone to convince his or her audience.  The speaker/writer must also pay due attention to emotion — what the old Greek guy called pathos — as well as to the most powerful persuader of all — the person’s ethos or individual character.

Words and their logic — logos, the third leg of the tri-leginous rhetorical stool — play a huge role in law and rightly so.  They also stand out in political presentations.

But the persuasive power of a speaker depends vitally on the character he exhibits to his or her hearers and the passion he or she arouses in them.  Aristotle thought a speaker/writer had to display all three aspects of rhetoric to maximize persuasiveness.  Logic and words are essential, but they’re a distant third in the rhetorical hierarchy.

Barack Obama has attracted much comment about his rhetoric.  Most reports focus on his words.  See, e.g., The Washington Post today.  We urge you to judge for yourselves whether the things he says account for his remarkable success so far — or whether it’s the emotion that Obama makes people feel and their sense of him as a human being.

Feedicon14x14 Obama didn’t approve this message.