Pathos

Pathos Definition

Pathos Definition

Pathos Definition

Pathos is a term derived from the ancient Greek word πάθος, which means “suffering” or “experience” or “emotion.” In rhetoric and literary studies, pathos refers to the emotional appeal or the quality of an argument or narrative that evokes feelings, emotions, or a sympathetic response in the audience. Essentially, pathos is the means by which a writer or speaker appeals to the audience’s emotions, aiming to persuade, inspire, or evoke compassion or any other strong feeling. It is one of the three modes of persuasion in rhetoric, alongside ethos (ethical appeal) and logos (logical appeal).

Pathos Definition in Different Contexts

“Pathos” has its roots in ancient Greek and primarily denotes “emotion” or “feeling.” However, depending on the context, the term can take on a slightly different nuance. Here are definitions of “pathos” in various contexts:

  • Rhetoric/Literature: As previously mentioned, in rhetoric and literature, pathos is a mode of persuasion used to appeal to the reader’s or audience’s emotions. It’s one of Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion, alongside ethos and logos.
  • Drama/Performing Arts: In drama, pathos might refer to the quality in a play or performance that evokes pity, sadness, or a deep emotion. For example, tragic plays often possess a strong element of pathos.
  • Philosophy: In existentialist discussions or those about the human condition, pathos might refer to the emotional response to the human experience, especially the feelings and emotions that arise from understanding life’s suffering and hardships.
  • Medicine: Less commonly, “pathos” can be linked to pathology and refers to disease or suffering.
  • General Use: In everyday language, “pathos” can simply refer to an emotional quality or an ability to evoke strong feelings. For instance, a sad story or a moving piece of music can be said to have pathos.

The exact definition and nuance of “pathos” can vary depending on the context in which it’s used, but it generally ties back to emotions, feelings, and human experience.