Master of Arts (MA)
Semester of Degree Completion
B. F. McClerren
Statement of Purpose:
Ethos, or the character of the speaker, is a subject of interest to students of rhetoric. This study traces the concepts of ethos from classical to modern times, and identifies philosophical value systems on which these concepts are based.
The study explores the hypothesis that similarities and differences exist between classical and modern concepts of ethos and that the concepts can generally be identified with philosophical value systems.
Criteria and Procedure:
The study is focussed by the following seven questions:
- What philosophical value systems provided the bases for the concepts of ethos set forth by classical rhetoricians?
- What concepts of ethos are set forth by classical rhetoricians?
- What similarities and differences exist between the concepts of ethos set forth by classical rhetoricians?
- What value systems provided the bases for the concepts of ethos set forth by modern rhetoricians?
- What concepts of ethos are set forth by modern rhetoricians?
- What similarities and differences exist between the concepts of ethos set forth by modern rhetoricians?
- What similarities and differences exist between concepts of ethos set forth by classical and modern rhetoricians?
Both primary and secondary sources were used in this study. Basic sources included classical and modern rhetorics plus philosophical essays. Articles providing critical analyses were also consulted.
The conclusions reached in this paper are as follows:
- Classical value systems that could serve as bases for concepts of ethos were idealistic, naturalistic, and pragmatic.
- Ethics in classical periods largely saw education as productive of righteous life styles and rhetoric as advisory.
- Similarities in classical concepts of ethos are found in agreement on the importance of audience analysis, speaker wisdom, and speaker honesty or sagacity. Differences are seen in emphasis given to audience adaptation and speech content.
- Modern value systems that have related to the concepts of ethos in rhetoric have been predominately naturalistic and pragmatic.
- Education and rhetoric are more generally considered amoral, unrelated to value structures, by modern theorists.
- Modern theories of ethos emphasize the importance of the speaker's reputation and language usage. They differ on the importance of content, purpose, and forms of proof needed to gain credibility.
Thomley, Corinne, "Concepts of Ethos in Classical and Modern Rhetoric" (1978). Masters Theses. 3247.