Chapter 5

Reasons that People Invent

Authors strive to persuade their audiences with reasons that are supported by evidence. Chapter 5 places the reasons an author is likely to utilize into three categories: reasons to trust, reasons to feel, and reasons to believe.

No one of these types of reasons is inherently better or worse than the others. They can each be effective with a specific audience in a specific situation. They tend to be most effective when they are used together.

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

In Controversies, we use the terms reasons to trust, reasons to feel, and reasons to believe. However, you should know that a lot of online resources refer to the same ideas using the classical terms ethos, pathos, and logos, which come from the Greek philosopher Aristotle

UT’s Undergraduate Writing Center provides an excellent handout about ethos, pathos, logos, and—most importantly—how to discuss them in a rhetorical analysis paper.

See also this handout from Minnesota State University, which breaks ethos, pathos, and logos into a table with helpful keywords and sample texts. 

Reasons to Trust

Rhetoricians find it helpful to separate situated from invented reasons to trust.

Because authors and their audiences tend to be embedded—or situated—within similar communities, there is a good deal of information an audience will already know about the author (his or her role in the community, etc.). However, authors invent additional reasons for their audiences to trust them.

Eric Dieter and Ashley Miller provide a good overview of ethos in this video

At the Writing Commons, Jessica McKee and Megan McIntyre have written a detailed explanation of ethos. In another piece, they share some flawed ways people go about proving their own credibility

Reasons to Feel and Believe

For more about how and what authors lead their audiences to feel and believe, watch Eric Dieter’s and Ashley Miller’s videos on pathos and logos.

Purdue OWL’s pathos and logos videos are also excellent resources.