9 Logic: Lucrative, Organic, Genius, Influential, Calculated

Isabella Grana

To my immediate family: Mama, Faja, and Nana. You three have taught me so much about communication, each with your own unique styles and flair. Mama, your demure composure, and sharp tongue have shown me the wonders of being able to regulate one’s emotions while getting what you want. Faja, your fiery Cuban personality has shown me that yelling sometimes (never) works. Nothing will compare to you on the verge of tears screaming because Costco forgot the mustard for your hot dog. Nana, cool as a cucumber, fierce as a tiger; nobody holds a candle to your compassion and ability to incorporate logic into your world. In your next life, I hope you’re a lawyer because you could convince a jury the sky is purple with a mere look. I owe it all to you three, my unorthodox and Philly cheesesteak loving family.

Keywords: Persuasion, Logic, Motivation, Reasoning


In 2018 there were over 19.65 million[1] college students in America, with 14.53 million in public colleges and 5.12 million in private colleges. Average college students are between the ages of 18 and 24[2], and there are 30.6[3] million Americans within that age range. To help paint the picture: less than half of Americans between 18 and 24 years old are enrolled as college students. I’m sure off the top of your head you can think of at least one person you know who is currently in college, previously enrolled in college, or graduated from college. Now keeping this person in mind, imagine how much effort they put in everyday during their college experience; how many hours they spent applying to college, how much the stress of the financial commitment it requires weighs on them, the time spent worrying about how they will afford loans. It is overwhelming, isn’t it? College teaches its students far beyond the classroom, it is a 24/7 crash course for learning how to be a successful member of society.

 

Success in today’s world can be defined in many different ways, but I argue that success can be achieved in every facet of life with the use of logos. Logos comes from Aristotle’s On Rhetoric, and it is a rhetorical or persuasive appeal to listeners using logic and rationality. Some characteristics of logos can range from factual information based within the speaker’s argument to explaining the speaker’s desired course of action to achieve their goals. Both of these characteristics give the speaker relatable credibility by connecting with the audience and their goals, and well founded, reliable, descriptions of their intended goals. Even in a global pandemic we find ourselves constantly persuading ourselves and others, from Facebook arguments, to family Zoom calls that get political, to the person at CVS not following COVID-19 guidelines, to your boss asking what you’ve been doing while working from home. Everything in life boils down to persuasion, and interpersonal relationships, and to be successful during these bouts the use of logos is crucial. In order for people to successfully convince their ‘audience’ to agree with them, one must consistently, and accurately employ the use of logos. Without the use of logos, one’s argument lacks the vigor, persuasion, and efficacy needed to be victorious. This efficacy and vigor can be defined in this case as, supporting elements to the method of rhetoric. Aristotle defined rhetoric as, “the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion.”[4] Especially now in American culture and politics audiences are inundated with pathos and ethos, merely a call to their emotions and character. While they are also helpful and enticing up to a certain point, by not also employing the use of logos (the logic and reasoning in persuasion) there will unstable validity. Think of it as if a politician is a sandwich maker and they are trying to feed a customer (constituent) enough, so they are no longer hungry. Pathos and ethos are the two slices of bread, and logos is the filling. Without the meat, cheese, toppings, what is the sandwich? Merely two slices of bread won’t satiate the appetite of a hungry customer. Alone, the filling is substantial enough to fill the customer, but bringing it together with the two slices of bread and ensuring you have enough of it in the middle, is an infallible way to persuade an audience.

 

As previously stated, logos is described as appeals based on reason or logic, with examples of it given as corporate documents or scholarly works. I argue that logos is that, but so much more, it isn’t just a citation of a fact checked statistic, it is the use of everyday logic such as if A equals 1 and B equals 2 therefore C equals 3. In an NYU Wagner debate titled “Debates of the Century: Should Public College Be Free” we see Sara Goldrick-Rab and Richard Vedder defend their opposing sides and discuss this important topic. Goldrick-Rab is a professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology at Temple University[5], and Vedder is a professor of Economics at Ohio University[6]. Both incredibly educated, well versed speakers, but from such different backgrounds. This was a very close debate, but Goldrick-Rab’s constant use of rhetorical appeals (primarily logos) and ability to eloquently debunk her opponents claims give her the superior performance. Sara Goldrick-Rab opens the debate with explaining that “college is hardly optional”[7] and what she means by this is that in America today the opportunities and occupation stability for a college graduate are far greater than those without a higher education degree. This is a prime example of everyday logic, nothing fancy or so entangled in the complexities of academia, it is just a simple statement of fact supported by logic. She supports her statement by reciting unemployment statistics[8] for college graduates versus those with no college education. She employs the use of logos by sharing these statistics and supports it again by saying clear research shows that the high price of education is disenfranchising young people in America, and that the country is losing talent that could benefit society as a whole. This is a prime example of logos in action because she is able to clearly and eloquently provide logic to the example, she says that clear research shows the high price of education, and the result is America missing out on potential greatness. She is able to get her various points across with such proficiency and passion based in logos, while expertly responding and negating Vedder’s arguments. While ethos and pathos are typically the two elements of rhetoric that are associated with passion, logos can employ passion in the delivery of conviction in which she states her facts and supports them.

 

As the debate continues Goldrick-Rab’s opponent Richard Vedder is a prime example of the traditional meaning of logos, logic with heavy evidentiary backing. He is able to use facts and figures to support his argument and uses less of the everyday knowledge and logic that Goldrick-Rab employed. Essentially Vedder takes a more literal approach to the use of logos, i.e., facts, figures, and academic information, while Goldrick-Rab makes an easier more understanding appeal and use of logos with her everyday logic appeals. Richard Vedder is no lame horse when it comes to this debate, he is fiery and full of knowledge. His background in economics was the base of the use of logos for his reasoning in this debate. He began with an example about Hillary Clinton not wanting to pay for Donald Trump’s children to go to college, this was a perfect use of fact-based storytelling. He then continues by stating that most benefits of going to college go to the student themselves, and not the world as Goldrick-Rab stated. He also states that the majority of college students and graduates come from families with above average incomes. Vedder provides an example of logos by stating that taxpayers do not finance financial investments of their fellow citizens, so why should they pay for human capital investments. Vedder’s arguments were flooded with strong statistics to support his points (another example of Logos), and he displayed a clear knowledge of the situation of public and private colleges in America. His statistics and knowledge of colleges in America were a prime example of logos because he took facts and used them to support his rhetorical appeals. Goldrick-Rab’s final proposal that by removing the price barrier of colleges graduation rates will soar, “maybe more so than we have seen in empirical models which only include observed variables [not people]”[9]. This final point was the perfect use of logos and pathos needed to effectively invalidate Vedder’s argument. This debate is a prime example of how using logos can help you persuade an audience to support your goals, ideas, prerogative, and mission.

 

Oftentimes Logos in persuasion can be seen by scholars and audiences as merely throwing facts, statistics, and figures. People can even make the claim that using logos without the use of Pathos and Ethos is a one-way ticket to an unstable position, since it can be seen as a lopsided argument. An argument that merely rests on emotional or passion-based appeals can be misunderstood as frantic or disorganized. With the incorporation of logos, the speaker can provide logical, factual, and essential support to their argument. Logos isn’t just throwing facts into the audience’s lap and hoping they pick one or two up, it’s the careful and deliberate use of logic to convince the audience that your ideas are correct and just. Facts, statistics, and evidence cannot simply speak for themselves, without the use of context and application they fall flat. In the example of the NYU debate, what good is knowing the unemployment rates of those aged 18-25 without it being in the context of the need for free higher education in the United States.   With inartistic logos (facts/figures/statistics), artistic logos (context/application/relationship to task at hand), pathos (emotional appeal), and ethos (character of author/speaker) the speaker can create the most effective method of rhetoric.

 

I propose another example for you to understand the importance and power that logos holds in rhetoric, and everyday life. Imagine yourself in a scenario where you are about to meet with your boss and ask for a raise. What would you say? What would you do? What would you bring into the room with you? Now imagine this boss is one you’re not fond of, you are scared to go into this meeting. You rehearsed a script in front of the bathroom mirror before work today, you feel your palms start to sweat. You walk in, your boss motions with their hand to come in, no words spoken. You have two options: use option A, timidly chat about all the things you’ve done and how hard you have worked, or option B, placing a folder enclosed with all your time logs for work, all your completed projects, your written plans for the future of your position at the company, proposals to increase revenue, and a persuasive letter with your intentions and desired new salary. Now, if you were the boss, which would you be more impressed by? Option A; unorganized, shy, nervous, stumbling over words (example of ethos and pathos)? Option B: physical proof of your dedication and work you’ve done for the company, it’s contextual benefit to the company, and why you deserve more? I know I would pick option B, because it is logos. It incorporates the speaker’s desired course of action to achieve goals and provides clear credibility to their argument. While option A is an important appeal to ethos and pathos in rhetoric, it doesn’t incorporate the factual evidence needed to create a convincing case. Option B incorporates ethos, pathos, and logos (inartistic and artistic), this makes it the strongest option because it can encapsulate Aristotle’s key point of effective rhetoric. By combining all three appeals the speaker can eloquently and effectively establish their case and make it the clear choice. Logos doesn’t say “this is why I deserve a raise, because of X Y and Z things I’ve done.” Logos says “I’m the best at what I do, here’s the proof, now what are you going to do about it?”


[1] Statista, College Enrollment in the United States from 1965 to 2018 and projections up to 2029 for public and private colleges, https://www.statista.com/statistics/183995/us-college-enrollment-and-projections-in-public-and-private-institutions/

[2] Hamilton Project, Age Distribution of Undergraduate Students, by Type of Institution, https://www.hamiltonproject.org/charts/age_distribution_of_undergraduate_students_by_type_of_institution

[3] National Center for Education Statistics, Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/raceindicators/indicator_RAA.asp

[4] Wld, Voce. “The Art of Rhetoric.” The Art of Rhetoric: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos, Mesa Community College, www.mesacc.edu/~bruwn09481/Syllabi/documents/htm/ArtRetoric/index.htm.

[5] http://saragoldrickrab.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Goldrick-Rab-6.23.19.pdf

[6] https://www.mackinac.org/bio.aspx?ID=200

[7] Sara Goldrick-Rab, Should Public College be Free?, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGIEJY

swWxI

[8] Unemployment of Americans: Who didn’t attend college, with high school degrees = 5.4%, Associates Degree = 3.4%, Bachelors Degree = 2.6%

Unemployment of African Americans: Who didn’t attend college, with high school degrees = 9.7%

Bachelors Degree = 4%

[9] Sara Goldrick-Rab, Should Public College be Free?, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGIEJYswWxI

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Rhetoric in Everyday Life by Isabella Grana is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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