Time: Mid-April, 317 BC
Place: Royal Greek Academy of Macedon, under a shady tree, after class

Student: Teacher, listen, I’ve got this great idea for an online business. It’s an app called Gossip of the Gods, and I’ll bet I can get a thousand subscribers for five drachmas each a month.

Aristotle: Interesting. But how exactly will you gather such revealing information about our esteemed Greek deities, my boy?

Student: Well, I’ll just make it up. The gods are just myths anyway. Who’s gonna know?

Aristotle: Hmm, good point.

Student: I can handle the back-end development, but I need your help with the website copy. It has to really sell the idea, and you’re the best around with that ‘classical rhetoric’ stuff.

Aristotle: You mean…using art of discourse in an attempt to inform, persuade and motivate?

Student: Exactly. Now what was it you were going on about last semester? Something about the three parts of a really persuasive pitch?

Aristotle: Ah, yes. You’re referring to my main rhetorical principles of ethos, pathos and logos.

Student: Okay, so, how are ethos, pathos and logos going convince our ancient bretheren to subscribe, so I can take this this thing public one day?

Aristotle: One step at time, young man. Now ethos, which is the root word for ‘ethical,’ refers to the credibility and authority of the one who’s making the, um, pitch. The more credibility you have, the more your audience is likely to trust you.

Student: Okay, good; then you’ll be our spokesperson. Everybody knows the great Aristotle. You have all these debate awards and stuff. And we can use the testimonials from your students, but not the ones that say you’re a little boring.

Aristotle: Hmm, very well. For a percentage.

Student: No problem. Now, pathos. Is that the root word for ‘pathetic’?

Aristotle: Why, yes. Pathos is an appeal to the emotions. And to make an emotional connection, you have to tap into the feelings of the people you’re talking to.

Student: Well, can you give me an example?

Aristotle: Okay: “Every month, get an insider’s peek at the lives of your gods — the naked greed, the lust, the betrayal, and the shame. Among your peers, you’ll be the one in the know; they’ll beg you to reveal the dark, sordid secrets.”

Student: Teacher, you are good. This whole enterprise is kind of pathetic, so we’ve got that angle covered.

Aristotle: Bad news is, we’re a little weak on logos, or what will come to be known as logic. A convincing logical argument is the third aspect of classical rhetoric.

Student: How about this: “As an upwardly mobile Greek citizen, you want to attract people such as friends, lovers, and business contacts. And other people love to hear gossip. Therefore, being the source of exclusive gossip will open doors, and help you be more successful in your life.” Isn’t that what you called, um, deductive reasoning?

Aristotle: So you were awake in class after all. But yes, you’re right. That does make a logical argument. Sort of.

Student: I feel like we’re breaking new ground here. Teacher, do you think that a couple thousand years from now, credibility, logic and emotional appeals are still going to persuade and convert website visitors?

Aristotle: Why of course, young man. Well, maybe not on all websites. Just the successful ones.

Student: And will they know to give you credit for these ideas, to remember and revere you, because your three principles of classical rhetoric were responsible for their modern success?

Aristotle and Student (looking at each other): Naaaaaaahhhhh.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someone