Understanding the Definition of Logos in Literature

Understanding the definition of logos in literature and applying it to your writing will help you create stronger, more effective logical arguments. 

While you may not enjoy conflict in life, in your writing, you need to write with a measure of persuasion, which sometimes creates some conflict. Logos is a term that refers to using logic and reasoning to persuade a reader to come to the same conclusion you have. 

If you are writing a persuasive piece, this type of logical argument is essential for bringing the reader to the desired conclusion. Understanding the definition of logos in literature, and studying popular logos examples, will help you be able to get an effective logical appeal to your writing, making it more successful and engaging.

What Is the Definition of Logos in Literature?

Understanding the definition of logos in literature

Logos is a Greek word that means “plea,” “discourse,” or “reason.” The persuasive appeal pulls in the reader’s own logical and rational sense to help them come to the desired conclusion. This literary device shows up in persuasive articles, but it is also often found in poetry and fiction literature.

Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, was the one who introduced the idea of logos in his book Rhetoric. He considered it, along with ethos and pathos, to be the three main modes of persuasion in public speaking.

Aristotle referred to public speaking in his book, but the same idea applies to writing. If you are trying to persuade, you can use logos, ethos, and pathos to do it. You might find our soliloquy definition useful.

Logos vs. Pathos

Definition of logos in literature
Logos is a term that refers to using logic and reasoning

To understand logos, first, consider how it differs from pathos. Pathos is an emotional appeal that creates an emotional response in the reader. 

Literary devices like metaphors and analogies are examples of pathos. Pathos should not drive an argument, but it can complement the less emotional logical appeals of logos by appealing to the audience’s emotions. You might also be interested in our motif in literature explainer.

Logos vs. Ethos

Ethos is a rhetorical appeal. This type of appeal shows the speaker or writer’s wisdom, personal experiences, and character. 

It brings a sense of authority to the argument to complement the use of logos. When someone with authority uses logos, the argument becomes even more powerful.

Two Types of Logos

Logos typically fall into one of two categories. Both are effective ways to apply logic to an argument. They are:

  • Deductive reasoning: This type of reasoning uses a few statements to reach a logical conclusion. If A is B, and B is C, then A is also C.
  • Inductive reasoning: This form of reasoning starts with observed or known facts and uses those to form general logical conclusions. For example, you could say that time outdoors boosts students’ spirits after watching improved moods after recess time.

Examples of Logos in Literature and Public Speaking

To better understand logos, take a look at how this form of deductive reasoning shows up in speeches and literary works.

President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address

In his 2016 State of the Union Address, Obama used all three modes of reasoning. He said:

“The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the ’90s, an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. That’s just part of a manufacturing surge that’s created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.”

The opening sentence appeals to emotions, but the rest of the facts appeal to common sense, making it an example of logos.

William Shakespeare’s Othello

In Othello, Iago, the villain, manipulates Othello into mistrusting his wife, Desdemona. He says:

“Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on…..
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger,
But, oh, what damnèd minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts— suspects, yet soundly loves…
She did deceive her father, marrying you…
She loved them most….
I humbly do beseech you of your pardon
For too much loving you….”

By indicating that Desdemona was willing to deceive her father to marry Othello, Iago uses deductive reasoning to indicate she would also be willing to deceive Othello, causing him to mistrust his wife.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

In To Kill a Mocking Bird, Atticus Fitch, one of the characters, is defending Tom Robinson, a black man, against the accusation of rape. He uses logos to build his argument when he says:

“The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence to the effect that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. It has relied instead upon the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence has not only been called into serious question on cross-examination, but has been flatly contradicted by the defendant. The defendant is not guilty, but somebody in this courtroom is.” 

In this argument, Atticus states that there are no facts against his client. He ignores appealing to the audience’s sense of justice about racial issues, even though those were in play, to focus entirely on the facts.

George Orwell’s 1984

In 1984, Orwell uses logos to mock politicians and their ability to manipulate facts. In other words, he uses logos to point the finger at logic and how people can use logical fallacies to trick the masses. 

“In the end, the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.”

This persuasive argument shows how quickly people can believe a lie when it appears to be logical.

A Final Word on the Definition of Logos in Literature

When making a persuasive argument, you must appeal to a reader’s sense of logic. This appeal is the definition of logos. 

Logos shows up in many types of literature, including persuasive essays, political speeches, newspaper columns, plays, advertisements, novels, and even poems. It pulls the reader in and drives them to the end conclusion effectively.

Logos started with the Greek philosopher Aristotle, but it remains a mode of persuasion today. If you are writing or speaking persuasively, learn to use logos effectively.

FAQs on the Definition of Logos in Literature

How do you define logos?

Logos refers to the type of persuasive argument that uses logic to draw the reader or listener to a particular conclusion. It does not appeal to emotions or the author’s credentials but entirely to the logic of the argument.

Why is logos important in writing?

Logos in writing is vital to drawing strong conclusions. If the goal of your writing is to help someone come to a conclusion, you need to use logical arguments to get to that point. That process is logos.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.