Appeals: Ethos
Chapter 3

Trust me.

The two are the most important words involved with ethos--the ethical appeal.

Ethos caters to character and credibility.  Why should I believe this person?  Why should I trust this person?  Is this person reliable? Do I want to trust this person?  These are questions every person should ask before "trusting."

Advertisers rely heavily on ethos.  They have to present their trustworthiness in a short amount of time, hence why they use celebrities to endorse their products.  Consider the two advertisements below:

Why did Papa John's choose Manning?  Consider Manning's character, his ethos.  What makes him someone we can trust, even after his retirement?  And why trust him with--of all products-- pizza?

Why did Fiat choose Charlie Sheen?  As Sheen stepped from the car, did you notice the focus?  Why did Fiat choose to highlight this?  What importance does it give to Sheen's ethos?  

Contrast the two commercials.  Why did each company choose these celebrities?  Try switching the two spokespersons: Manning as the "bad boy" on house arrest and Sheen as the one people can always depend on.  What does this indicate about how critical ethos is? Credibility is everything.  Character is everything.  Trust is everything.

As an arguer, your ethos will be questioned.  Why should I, your teacher, believe you? Why should you, as students, believe me?  Why believe any of your teachers?  Why should any of your teachers believe you?  Because the way you present yourself establishes your ethos--the way you present yourself in class, how you complete your homework (or do not complete it), attendance, attitude (towards others and your teachers).  Your ethos is also based on simple items:  correct spelling, grammar, mechanics.  These are important.

Need I say more?  We all have read fb posts that hurt our brains.  How do we feel about these people?  We laugh, shake our heads, and possibly discredit these people as reliable sources.  To be honest, I would never trust these people.  (I love the irony of the child telling Dad what he needs to do to improve himself.)

3 Steps to Ethos

Ethical arguments depend on one item--trust.  According to page 45, arguers "...tend to accept arguments from those we trust, and we trust them in good part because their reputations."  

Ethos is built around 3 items: trustworthiness/credibility, authority, and unselfish motives. We turn to doctors for their expert advice.  We ask elders for their advice because we trust them and they have experienced similar situations.  We hire lawyers because they know the law and we can trust them to represent us.  We hire mechanics to fix our cars because of their vast knowledge of automobiles.  

Look at the picture below:


Who is the person in the poster?  What is the meaning of the caption?  How are the two related?  Can we trust this person?  Why or why not?

What about this:

This explores the trustworthiness/credibility of Nixon.  What ethical claim is the author making?  

As an arguer, you have to invite your audience in.  Once you do that, the audience can now associate with you.  Many speeches begin with a story or a joke.  This puts the audience at ease and builds your trust/credibility.  After you have established that credibility, you will need to move fast to make your claims and back up said claims.  

To further assure your credibility, you must respect your audience's intelligence.  You must cite reliable sources.  This assures the audience that you have done your homework and are knowledgeable about your topic.

Also, an arguer must admit limitations/weaknesses in an argument.  Nothing is wrong with admitting your argument has limitations.  This only cements your earnestness.  Be honest with the audience.  No one likes to "smell a rat."

AND, the best part?  You can use "you" or "I" because that deepens the connection with the audience. (Just do not use these pronouns in an rhetorical analysis or in formal research papers.)

Claiming Authority

This is all a name game.  Titles are important.  If you are arguing about global warming and use your Aunt Sally who is a cosmetologist, that will not help your authority on the issue.  If she so happens to have a Master's Degree in science, then you have to mention that.  

What about this: Mr. Smith told us 2+2 = 5.  

Who is Mr. Smith?  Dad? Uncle? Teacher? Bum on the street?

Look at how this changes with the "name game": Mr. Smith, the AP Calculus teacher of 10 years at the high school, said 2+2 =5.  

Okay.  Now that is different.  Ethos has been established as well as claiming authority.

Dropping names and titles is important.  Why do you think newspapers and articles highlight the "Dr." or the "PhD"?  What about dropping Harvard or Yale or MIT.  All these titles and names are important.  Even something as simple as "Mrs." gives wives authority in relationships and they have "been through it all" and can give you credible advice.

Coming Clean about Motives

Advertisers are guilty of this as well as spokespersons.  We have to ask "Whose interests are they serving?  Mine or theirs?"  "How will they profit from this?"

Always be up front with associations with organizations.  If you have a hidden agenda and do not tell your audience about these associations, you will be discredited as an arguer.  

Sure, he came clean with his motives, but would you still trust him?  (By the way, he played a doctor on a soap opera.  Does that tarnish his ethos more?)

Is he more credible that the actor in the previous picture?  This guy admits he does not know anything, but can we trust him?

Establishing Ethos

1. Connect with the audience, respect them, and find common ground.

2. Let the audience know you did your homework and know the topic.

3. Be honest with your motives and any associations you have with certain organizations.

Ethos Acitvity

On page 54, complete question 3.  Look at someone's fb (not a lose friend) and evaluate that person's ethos.  DO NOT GIVE ME A NAME.  Follow the directions on page 54.