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What is Logos in Literature?

    what is logos in literature

    Before you can think about teaching argumentation and persuasion, you must understand the basics of logos, including what it is, why it’s used, and how to spot it in writing or argument. This article teaches you everything you need to know about the logical component of persuasion and argumentation.

    Logos Definition

    Derived from the Greek word for “word” or “reason,” logos is one of the three primary rhetorical appeals, alongside ethos and pathos. Just like you would assume based on how the word sounds, logos is the elements of an argument that appeal to an audience’s sense of logic and reasoning. Writers use several forms of logical evidence to convince the audience through a rational and well-supported argument, including:

    • Facts
    • Statistics
    • Data
    • Surveys
    • Test results
    • Expert testimony
    • Textual evidence
    • Historical or literal analogies
    • Cause and effect relationships

    The term “logos” traces its roots to ancient Greek philosophy, particularly in the works of Aristotle. In his work “Rhetoric,” Aristotle broke down the key elements of persuasive communication, including supporting with logic (logos), appealing to emotions (pathos), and establishing trust and credibility (ethos). According to his work, these three elements work together to create a compelling and convincing argument. While logos can be found in literature, it is often used in academic writing, persuasive speeches, law, political campaigns, marketing, and advertisements.

    Logos Pronunciation

    Logos is a two-syllable word dating back to ancient Greek philosophy and is pronounced as low-gowz.

    What are the Different Types of Logos?

    All forms of logos serve the same purpose: to convince an audience using logical evidence and reasoning. However, this can be achieved through logic or perceived logic. Let’s break down the difference:


    In rhetoric, logic involves using clear reasoning and concrete evidence to build a compelling argument. It adheres strictly to the principles of deductive and inductive reasoning, using facts, statistics, and logical connections to persuade the audience. Examples of this form of logic include:

    • Presenting statistical data to support an argument.
    • Defending a thesis with textual evidence and clear explanation.
    • Citing well-established facts or scientific evidence.
    • Utilizing deductive reasoning to draw a logical conclusion.

    Perceived Logic

    On the other hand, perceived logic focuses on creating an impression of logic when there isn’t much hard evidence. Instead, this form of logical reasoning relies on using relatable stories, comparisons, and a smooth flow of ideas to give the impression that the argument makes sense. Writers may create a sense of perceived logic using techniques such as:

    • Using relatable anecdotes to make a point, even if they are not supported by statistics.
    • Employing analogies to convey a sense of similarity or connection.
    • Crafting a narrative that feels logically consistent, even if it lacks empirical evidence.
    • Appealing to common beliefs to assert that an argument is valid.

    Both approaches to logos can be effective in different contexts, catering to the diverse ways in which audiences engage with and understand logical arguments.

    What it’s NOT: Logical Fallacies

    When using logos, writers never want to unintentionally poking holes in their own argument. (Makes sense, right?) However, it happens all the time. Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning or flawed arguments that can weaken the validity and soundness of an argument. Understanding these fallacies is crucial for critical thinking and effective communication. Here are some common examples:

    Ad Hominem: Attacking the character of the person making the argument rather than addressing the substance of the argument itself. Example: bashing someone’s environmental proposals because they are a vegan.

    Straw Man: Misrepresenting an opponent’s argument to make it easier to attack instead of addressing the actual position. Example: Claiming that someone proposing a reduction in educational spending wants the population to be dumb.

    False Cause, also called Causal Fallacy or Post Hoc: Incorrectly assuming that because one event follows another, the first caused the second. Example: “Since I started eating ice cream, I haven’t been sick. Therefore, ice cream must be keeping me healthy.”

    False Dilemma: Presenting only two extreme options when there are actually more nuanced possibilities. Example: “Either you support this policy, or you don’t care about the future of our country.”

    Appeal to Authority: Relying on the endorsement of an unqualified or irrelevant celebrity or authority figure rather than substantive evidence. Example: “Tom Brady uses that brand of toothpaste, so it must be the best out there.”

    Red Herring: Attempting to shing the focus in a discussion or debate to divert attention away from the original topic or argument. Example: Shifting the focus to personal responsibility during a discussion on systemic issues contributing to healthcare costs.

    Other logical fallacies include:

    • Hasty Generalization
    • Appeal to Ignorance
    • Circular Reasoning
    • Sunk Cost Fallacy
    • Bandwagon Fallacy
    • Slippery slope
    • Equivocation

    Why Do Writers Use Logos?

    Writers employ logos as a persuasive strategy to build a rational and well-supported case, making their arguments more convincing and harder to argue against. By presenting concrete evidence and well-developed logic, authors build credibility to their argument. This not only enhances the persuasiveness of the writing but also provides a solid foundation for their claims.

    Additionally, logos helps simplify complex ideas. Well-structured logical reasoning helps authors bridge the gap between their argument and the audience’s understanding or experiences, adding a compelling and convincing edge to their argument. Presenting logical connections and evidence makes the material more accessible and engaging for the audience.

    How to Spot Logos in Writing

    Sometimes logos is very straightforward, while other times, especially in more complex arguments or works of literature, it can be more challenging to pinpoint. However, in either case, the steps below make it easier to identify logos in writing or any form of persuasion:

    1. Consider the claim, purpose, and evidence

    Logos relies heavily on evidence, whether in the form of statistics, research findings, or real-life examples. Writers employing logos will support their claims with concrete data to strengthen their arguments. As yourself:

    • What is the claim or argument the author is trying to make?
    • Do they use concrete evidence, such as facts or statistics, to support their claim?
    • Does the author reference credible sources or authorities to strengthen their points?

    2. Pay attention to suture

    The overall structure of the writing says a lot about logos. A well-organized piece will present ideas in a logical sequence, with each point building upon the previous one to form a coherent argument. Ask yourself:

    • Is the argument presented in a clear and structured way, establishing a logical flow?
    • Do the ideas progress logically, building upon each other to support the overall argument?

    3. Look for clarity and precision

    A clear argument is a strong argument. Writers using logos will carefully define terms, avoid ambiguity, and ensure that their arguments are presented in a straightforward manner. Ask yourself:

    • Do I understand the point the author is trying to make?
    • Are there any flaws in the reasoning or logical fallacies poking holes in the argument?
    • Are key terms and concepts clearly defined to avoid ambiguity or confusion? 

    Tips for Teaching Logos

    • Start with the definition: Rather than assuming your students know what logos is, begin by providing a clear and concise definition of logos to ensure a foundational understanding.
    • Use real-world examples: Add relevance and context to logos by using real-world examples, such as current events and contemporary issues, demonstrating its application in a real-world context. 
    • Hold debates and discussions: Create an active learning experience by encouraging students to participate in class debates and discussions where students can practice and refine their logical reasoning skills. (Get things started with these engaging argumentative prompts.)
    • Guide students through close readings: Analyze written texts together, identifying how authors use logos to build their arguments and discussing the effectiveness of different approaches.
    • Look at advertisements: Bring logos to life by reviewing and analyzing advertisements for logical appeals. Look at advertisements such as print ads, social media ads, and commercials for a multimedia experience.
    • Don’t skip logical fallacies: Discuss common logical fallacies to help students recognize and avoid them in their own writing and critical analysis of texts—and to save you stress and frustration when grading.

    Examples of Logos

    1. In Literature: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” logos shines through as Atticus Finch uses logical arguments and evidence to defend Tom Robinson during trial. For example, Atticus questions the lack of medical evidence to support Mayella Ewell’s claims and even proves Tom Robinson could not have caused the injuries to Mayella’s face due to his injured left arm.

    Throughout the trial, Atticus emphasizes the absence of concrete proof, proving the case is rooted in hearsay versus factual reasoning. Unfortunately, despite Atticus’ strong logical reasoning, Tom Robinson is not set free, underscoring the racial injustices of the American South in the 1930s.

    2. In a Famous Speech: “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr.

    Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a powerful example of logos as he crafts a logical and persuasive argument for civil rights. Dr. King makes several historical references, particularly to crucial American documents, including the Emancipation Proclamation, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, to make his case. This tactic allows him to highlight the gap between the nation’s founding principles and promises and the reality for many citizens.

    King focuses on grounding his speech in logic before moving toward more emotional appeal to resonate with his audience, using the lessons of the past to support his vision for the future. Through a mix of logos and pathos, he presents a powerful, logical argument, calling on the need for racial equality and justice.

    3. In an Essay: “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau

    Thoreau’s essay, iconically written while in jail for not paying a poll tax as an act of peaceful protest, is a classic example of logos. To support his personal beliefs, he presents a logical argument supporting individual resistance against unjust laws and immoral government actions. Through the use of clear and specific examples, he advocates for the moral duty to resist policies that violate one’s personal principles.

    Despite being rooted in his personal beliefs, Thoreau crafts a structurally sound argument, allowing the reader to follow along as he logically builds his case. His examples include both local references to drive his points home while drawing comparisons to broader-scale issues, such as the Mexican War, to help paint a clearer picture of reason and support for his argument.

    Additional Resources for Teaching Logos

    Check out my lesson plan on evaluating arguments to guide students through examining, analyzing, and evaluating arguments in nonfiction passages.

    Read this post for more tips on teaching argument and persuasion.

    Start here if you’re looking for more on how to teach argumentative message writing.

    Looking to incorporate videos? Check these resources out:

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