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How Extrinsic and Pathetic Proofs Work in Rhetorics

Updated on February 10, 2014

What is Rhetoric?

Currently rhetoric is considered a cloak to cover what a speaker or writer is really saying. We hear the commentators discussing the "rhetoric" of the president or the candidate or the mayor while they dismiss what was said as just so much fluff. It is regarded as an effort to say the "right thing" without making any confessions or taking a real stand.

The old guys in the ancient world looked at rhetoric in a totally different way. Rhetoric began with scholars like Plato, Sophocles, and Aristotle as early as the 5th century BCE. Since disagreements seem to be inevitable in human society, rhetoric was the way to come to a decision, settle a dispute, or formulate a law. Rhetoic consisted of arguments pro and con using proofs to persuade the audience.

Many Hubs are an effort to sway opinion or prove a point. .

What is Progymnasmata?

The progymnasmata was a series of structured exercises that taught the student how to argue and defend either side of an issue. In modern society this type of training is seen in debate teams and is used by law students. The real realm of good rhetoric is found in politics and advertising, and it is occasionally used by clergymen in sermons.

What is a Rhetor?

A rhetor is one who practices rhetoric in speaking or writing. A well-constructed rhetorical argument can be powerful and moving in persuading an audience.

A rhetorician is one who teaches or writes on the subject of rhetoric.  I find myself writing about rhetoric; however, I don't consider myself an authority of sufficient skill to be called a rhetorician.  I do like the idea though.

What are Proofs?

A rhetor uses intrinsic proofs, extrinsic proofs, and propositions, An Intrinsic proof is one that is found by the rhetor. In studying a problem or situation he or she "comes upon" or finds a new way think about the solution.

Extrinsic proof is one that is a provable fact. Aristotle argued that these are "not supplied by our own efforts, but existed beforehand,"(Rhetoric I ii 1356a) They require no art or skill, and therefore, are "extinsic" to the rhetor.

Proposition is a proof that lies in the realm of possibility. "It could happen this way." We often resort to "what if" questions to plan a course of action. Trial lawyers use this proof to explain the way a crime could have happened.

Aristotle defined three intrinsic proofs: ethos, pathos, and logos. In English they translate to ethical proof, pathetic proof and logical proof. Ethical comes from the Latin word ethos. Ethical proof is based in the character of the rhetor.

Examples: "Because I'm the dad, that's why." "Because the doctor said so" "The senator thinks that is the way to do it."

Pathetic proof is an emotional appeal. The vegetarians exploit the suffering of chickens and cows to discourage the eating of meat. Both sides of the abortion issue use pathetic appeals. Those who favor abortion focus on the life and wishes of the mother. Those who oppose, focus on the suffering of the fetus or the guilt of the mother.

Logos originally meant "word" and was used to mean voice. A verbal appeal is very different from a written one; however, that word later came to mean reason. A logical appeal is intellectual and reasonable.

Review other Hubs

I would be interested in hearing form anyone who has a comment or an interest in rhetoric, ancient Rome or Greece, writing, or baking bread. Other information on rhetoric and rhetorical writing are found on these hubs.


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    • Jake4102 profile image

      Jacob Smiley 

      7 years ago from Nebraska USA

      Well written. I like it. I am an English major and studying the history behind rhetoric is very interesting to me. Good stuff keep writing!

    • Challah1202 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Chandler, TX

      Thank you for correcting me De Greek. I think a lot of words come from Greek since it predated the Latin by several hundred years. On the other hand, the Latins used ethos, and I was trying to define how. Apologies!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      “Argument can be powerful and moving in persuading an audience” and yours have now bore results. I am hooked! :-))

      Especially since you are also interested in bread, because I am in the process of learning to cook and having covered yoghurt, I have moved on to bread and what I do not know about the male’s way of making bread quickly and efficiently, is not worth knowing.

      One thing though. Please set the record straight about “Ethos”. Unquestionably a Greek word, not a Roman one, used in texts long before anyone heard of Rome. :-)))


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