Argument and Credibility
As man speaks, so is he. -- Seneca, Thyestes
The character [ethos] of the speaker is a cause of persuasion when the speech is so uttered as to make him worthy of belief; for as a rule we trust men of probity more, and more quickly, about things in general. When one points outside the realm of exact knowledge, where opinion is divided, we trust them absolutely. This trust, however, should be created by the speech itself, and not left to depend upon an antecedent impression that the speaker is this or that kind of man. It is not true, as some writers on the art maintain, that the probity of the speaker contributes nothing to his persuasiveness; on the contrary, we might almost affirm that his character [ethos] is the most potent of all the means to persuasion. -- Aristotle, Rhetoric
The quotation from Seneca might not fare well in the modern world of business management simply because it appears so insensitive to that world's expectations concerning inclusive language, language that does not discriminate on the basis of gender or sex. 1 By using language that limits speakers to men, Seneca appears to be sexist, though perhaps not as much as he would were he a modern manager and referred to the receptionist as "the girl at the front desk." 2
However, once we have allowed for differences between classical and modem norms of language (and have forgiven Seneca for the bias of his world), we can find in his aphorism an important concept of classical rhetoric: ethos. Unlike reputation, which one acquires and brings to an act of communication, ethos arises from that very act. Thus one might have a reputation for being honest, trustworthy, or credible, but that is an attribute of character or person that can stand apart from the use of lan
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Publication information: Book title: Competitive Communication:A Rhetoric for Modern Business. Contributors: Barry Eckhouse - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 119.
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