2011-07-09 17:17:59Art of persuasion not so simple
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.9.229
Thought provoking article on persuading people. I found the talk on Aristotle particularly interesting.

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/art-of-persuasion-not-so-simple-20110708-1h6m9.html#ixzz1RZ6gKXwc

The historian in me can't resist saying that Aristotle worked all this out 2350 years ago. In On Rhetoric he argued that there are three controlling factors in persuasion. Logos is the intellectual dimension. He said that as rational beings we like to know (or think) that our beliefs are grounded in reality. But logos alone does not move people to adopt new beliefs or behaviours.

Pathos, the emotional or psychological dimension, also plays a role. Beliefs are formed not only by rationalisation but also by "attraction". Arguments we "like", whether because they are presented beautifully or because they resonate with our hopes, will usually be more persuasive than ones we find unpleasant. I think this partly explains why, despite having some great minds in the cause, atheism continues to be an important minority viewpoint. Whatever its intellectual credentials, taken seriously it offers a very bleak outlook.

However, logos and pathos do not fully account for why we believe what we believe. Aristotle reserved a special place in his theory for what he called ethos, the social or ethical dimension. Not only do we tend to believe ideas we like, we also tend to accept the ideas of people we like.
And the bit about secularists' views on Christians was interesting too :-)