Feelings are facts!

     We’ve talked a lot in class about constructing good arguments and rhetoric based upon emotional appeals. The book talks about good emotional based rhetoric stirring up or creating specific feelings in the audience, and then using these to persuade. In class we used the example of commercials that depend on pathos to deliver a certain message to the audience. Also, it is crucial that rhetors understand and recognize the emotional state of their audience, especially when they determine whether people will be receptive of their message and if their minds can even be changed. This became very clear during class when we discussed the speech delivered by President Bush in the after math of 9/11. The audience was feeling a very clear set of emotions, ranging from anger to sadness, and Bush and his speech writers understood the emotions that were expected to be taken from his message.

     I’d like to take the opportunity in this blog post to talk about something I read in an inspirational book that deals with systems of logic. The reading states that there are three types of logic one can utilize during a conflict, including Western logic, Eastern logic, and theological logic. Western logic relies on facts, statistics, and evidence to make one’s case, while Eastern logic takes the stance of fate in approaching a conflict, “what will be, will be.” Lastly, theological logic is described by this reading to denote the use of morality, right and wrong, to discuss a person’s actions, behavior, choices, and way of thinking.

     The type of logic being employed during a verbal conflict or case of persuasion is very useful if recognized; you can understand a person’s rhetoric more effectively and communicate better. However, the reading makes it very clear that you should always look to see if any type of logic is being applied to feelings. It is stated, “…wherein you try to convince another of the validity and reasonableness of how you feel, as if feelings require shoring up and proof. In truth, however, feelings are fact, stand-alone realities that neither require evidence nor lend themselves to proof or debate.” It is important in any argument that you yourself do not feel the need to use any form of logic to defend your feelings, as well as use logic to make another feel the need to defend theirs. The type of logic outlined above is useful during rhetorical situations, but as long as it is not used to attack or try to validate audience feelings.

     I find this little lesson important when learning about how to effectively use pathos during communication, whether it be trying to persuade, send a message, or during a conflict. Emotional appeals can be very effective for those uses, but as long as it doesn’t push the audience to feel the need to validate their own feelings on the subject. For example, I might feel that it is not the government’s right to disallow the use of marijuana for cancer patients. Perhaps I have a close relative that is suffering from cancer, but lives in a state that does not allow it for medicinal purposes, yet they are in constant suffering and pain. This stirs up very sad and sympathetic feelings and I would be very unlikely to be receptive to an anti-drug commercial talking about how marijuana has no benefits and is only used by teenagers to get high and drive around with their buddies. I would immediately jump on the defense and feel the need to defend my own emotions on the subject, responding very negatively to the pathetic appeal intended by the commercial.

     All in all, it is important for the rhetor to understand the proper balance between pathos and the audience’s feelings. Effective messages do not step on the toes of the audience and force them into the defense. Instead, rhetors must identify the general feelings of the audience and delicately appeal to a set of emotions that would be most likely receptive, either enhancing those feelings or working to influence them towards new ones. And remember, during any conflict you do not need to defend your feelings with any sort of logic. Feelings need no validation, and you shouldn’t feel the need to offer proof for why you feel them nor demand proof from another about theirs.  Feelings are fact.


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