Learn the art of public speaking with Aristotle!



Aristotle was a Greek philosopher who lived in the 4th century BCE, during which he met Plato and became his disciple. Unlike the master, Aristotle is known as the realistic philosopher and he wrote on many subjects, ethics, politics, logic, nature and of course on public speaking. In his book called On Rhetoric, he explains the art of persuasive speaking by pointing out three types of speeches: deliberation, demonstration and judiciary.

The deliberative speech is mostly used upon weighing options to make a decision.

The demonstrative speech is about rational arguments demonstrated in a logical order.

The judiciary speech is for sanction or condemnation.

The three types can be intertwined as well as separate. For each situation, there is a persuasive speech. Therefore, unlike Plato’s position on rhetoric, Aristotle firmly believed in the importance of speeches and oral communication in many fields. Against Plato, he rehabilitated rhetoric and his book On Rhetoric became wildly read by famous orators such as Cicero, Quintillion and many others. While philosophy was not interested in persuasive speaking and preferred literacy, the Roman Empire progressively started to prefer social status and political power to rhetoric. Slowly, the importance of public speaking faded away.

Aristotle thought of tools and conditions of a persuasive speech of any type by emphasizing on three main concepts: Ethos, Pathos, Logos, as they are tools and conditions of an efficient communication. Let’s delve a bit more in those concepts.

Ethos: meaning in Greek character, ethos is the appeal to authority and credibility of the public speaker. Being reliable and credible is a sure way for the orator to persuade its audience, also using reliable and credible arguments. Otherwise, the audience will not adhere to whatever he or she says.

Pathos: meaning suffering, passion; it is used in a speech as an appeal to emotions, by evoking emotions in the audience with used arguments. One can play with fear or hope, dreams and worries, like we see in political speeches today.

Logos: meaning reason, it is the appeal to logic in arguments used in persuasive speaking. This is also a powerful tool because the orator can prove his arguments or use them in a rational demonstration which is the convincing part of a speech.

Combining those three elements can make any verbal communication persuasive and efficient. Aristotle, unlike Plato, considered that not all rhetoric is bad: it all depends on its content mostly and on the way it is delivered.

Looking at the public speaking large scene, we can say that speakers are using demonstrations, rationality as much as provoking emotions. However, ethos is lacking.

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