Writing

What Is Logos? Definition and Examples of Logos in Literature

Written by MasterClass

May 30, 2019 • 3 min read

We often try to avoid conflict in our personal lives, but as a writer sometimes your job is to advance an argument and effectively persuade your audience. The term logos is used to refer to the use of logic and reasoning in crafting a piece of persuasive writing or rhetoric. Building a logical case can take time and effort, but understanding logos and being able to make effective logical appeals can elevate your writing and help engage your reader.

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What Is Logos?

Logos is a rhetorical or persuasive appeal to the audience’s logic and rationality. Examples of logos can be found in argumentative writing and persuasive arguments, in addition to literature and poetry.

What Are the Origins of Logos?

Logos is a greek word with a variety of different meanings including, “reason,” “discourse,” and “plea,” among others. Greek philosopher Aristotle provided a definition of logos in his work Rhetoric, where he used logos to mean “reasoned discourse”, specifically in the realm of public speaking. Aristotle considered logos one of the three main modes of persuasion alongside ethos and pathos. Aristotle thought logos superseded the other two, as the effectiveness of any argument depended on a strong logical appeal.

6 Examples of Logos

Strong, logical appeals help bring an audience around to your point of view, and help you avoid lapses in logic known as logical fallacies. Logic should build methodically and readers should be able to see you construct an argument step-by-step. It’s much easier to persuade an audience when they can see every step you took to come to your conclusion.

  1. Politics: A city council meeting that provides evidence of past collisions in order to argue for the installation of an improved traffic signal.
  2. Plays: Early greek dramatists often structured entire plays around philosophical debates. Sophocles’ drama Antigone is based around a debate between the king, Creon, and his niece Antigone over whether or not Antigone’s brother should be afforded burial rites. Both characters display logos in their compelling arguments against one another.
  3. Novels: In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the climactic courtroom scene features an impassioned plea to the jury on the part of lawyer Atticus Finch, who argues logically and methodically for his client’s innocence.
  4. Newspapers: Reporters and columnists depend on logos to convey the logic of a story or persuade their readers. One example of logos you might find would be a newspaper editorial listing examples of the success of child literacy programs in arguing for their further implementation.
  5. Poems: Many of Shakespeare’s sonnets take the form of impassioned pleas on the part of a narrator who uses logos to justify their love and seek reciprocation from the object of their desire.
  6. Ads: Advertisements often depend on logical arguments to persuade their target audience to use their product or service. A toothpaste advertisement, for example, might provide statistical evidence for the effectiveness of the product at preventing cavities.

What Is the Difference Between Logos, Pathos, and Ethos?

Though he emphasized the importance of logos, Aristotle laid out several other forms of persuasion that he saw as essential to crafting and delivering a persuasive argument. These included:

  • Pathos: An appeal to emotion is known as pathos. Pathos often relies on literary devices like metaphors or particularly impassioned prose. Emotional appeals are an important part of persuasion, but some philosophers like Plato cautioned against an over reliance on emotion. Effective and economic use of pathos can help to balance out the more dry appeals to logic that logos can lead to. Learn more about pathos here.
  • Ethos: Aristotle defined ethos as a rhetorical appeal meant to display the speaker’s knowledge, credibility, and strong moral character. Ethos is useful in grounding an argument in the experience and wisdom of the writer. Ethos fits in nicely with logos as it underscores the logic of an argument by speaking to the writer’s credibility and past experience in relevant areas. Learn more about ethos here.

No matter the medium, Logos is a hugely important part of strong writing. Building a logical case and arguing methodically can help craft a persuasive essay or give internal logic to the actions of a fictional character. For these reasons, logos is an essential concept for writers to study and employ.

Learn more writing techniques in Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass.