Rhetorical Analysis Essay Using Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

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American instrumentalist Frank Zappa once said, “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible”. Zappa is stating that if a person does not stray off the beaten path, there will never be progression. Progress is a movement towards an improved state, and it is a necessary component of development. In his TED Talk, 'Is the World Getting Better or Worse? A Look at the Numbers', Steven Pinker uses various rhetorical appeals such as pathos, logos, and ethos to persuade the audience that the world is making progress.

Pinker uses the rhetorical appeal of pathos to capitalize on the emotions of the audience. Throughout his speech, Pinker employs humor to grab the audience’s attention and relate to them. An example of this is in the introduction of his speech when he mentions how 2016 was called the “Worst. Year. Ever.” because of things like shootings, inequality, and pollution. He then followed it by saying “Until 2017 claimed that record”, making the audience laugh and lifting the mood. By being humorous, he gains the sympathy of the audience in a way. Pinker further resonates with the audience when he states that he has found that “intellectuals hate progress”, which causes them to laugh once again, increasing the audience's positive feedback and laughter. He is also self-deprecating when speaking on this matter because he is a high-level intellectual, connecting himself back to the audience. On the contrary, he also recounts various facts and statistics in his presentation.

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Furthermore, Pinker also incorporates the rhetorical device logos in his speech. Logos is used to convince the audience by utilizing logic or reason. For example, one such fact is that 90% of the world’s population under the age of 25 can read and write, which differs from 30 years ago. To further explain how the world has progressed, graphs, figures, and images are used throughout his argument. He speaks about the world today versus 30 years ago, comparing the numbers of wars, autocracies, extreme poverty, and nuclear arms and how numbers have decreased, showing the betterment of the world. Moreover, Pinker reveals that in 86% of the world’s countries, happiness has increased in the past number of years. This is not because of faith or optimism but is just a fact of human history. Additionally, he uses accredited sources for the visual aids that he provides in his informational slides such as 'Our World in Data', based on Lopez and Holle; NOAA. This graph is exhibiting the number of lightning strike deaths in the United States from 1900 to 2015, showing a massive decline in numbers. Pinker uses logos prominently because numbers hold power, and he is using truth to fight misconceptions, and although he uses official sources, he can also be considered trustworthy in his own work.

Lastly, Pinker uses ethos to persuade the audience the world is progressing. Ethos is used to persuade the audience of the author’s character, and Pinker bolsters credibility for many reasons. Firstly, he is currently a Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and has also taught at Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Secondly, he has written several books throughout his career, his most recent one being 'Enlightenment Now'. In this book, Pinker describes how the values of the Enlightenment, science, reason, humanism, and progress keep improving our world, making it a better place every day, despite the negative news. However, some individuals were outraged by the book and his views on progress. Thirdly, he is an acclaimed individual by being an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a recipient of several honorary doctorates, and Time’s '100 Most Influential People in the World Today'. He also frequently writes for The New York Times, The Guardian, and other publications. Likewise, Pinker’s command of language also makes him a credible source to be speaking on this topic. Throughout his address, he uses an extensive vocabulary to enhance his speech while also making sure to say it in a way that everyday people will understand. One example is when Pinker says, “Most academics and pundits would rather have their surgery with anesthesia than without”. He uses words that most people would know and synonyms of those words.

Steven Pinker includes rhetorical appeals - pathos, logos, and ethos - in order to engage his listeners in a way that will allow his message to be both memorable and meaningful. By engaging with their emotions with the use of pathos, supporting and strengthening his claims with logos, and building his personal credibility with ethos, Pinker ensures that his listeners are engrossed in the significance of his ideas. The incorporation of his rhetorical appeals confirms that his listeners will leave having fully contemplated the information he presented with an understanding of the deeper meanings and importance that Pinker hoped to convey.

Works Cited

  1. Pinker, Steven. 'Is the World Getting Better or Worse? A Look at the Numbers'. TED, Apr. 2018, http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_is_the_world_getting_better_or_worse_a_look_at_the_numbers?language=en Accessed 10 September 2019.
  2. Zappa, Frank. 'Frank Zappa Quotes' (Author of 'The Real Frank Zappa Book'). Goodreads, 2019, www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/22302.Frank_Zappa Accessed 10 September 2019.
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Rhetorical Analysis Essay Using Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. (2023, November 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 21, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/rhetorical-analysis-essay-using-ethos-pathos-and-logos/
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Rhetorical Analysis Essay Using Ethos, Pathos, and Logos [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Nov 15 [cited 2024 Apr 21]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/rhetorical-analysis-essay-using-ethos-pathos-and-logos/
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