Walk a Kb or Two in my Moccasins- Nobody 'splained it to me like that!

Simple answers to Complex Questions and Complex Answers to Simple Questions. In real life, I'm a Greater-Toronto (Canada) Realtor with RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Ltd, Brokerage. I first joined RE/MAX in 1983 and was first Registered to Trade in Real Estate in Ontario in 1974. Formerly known as "Two-Finger Ramblings of a Forensic Acuitant turned Community Synthesizer"

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

How we form our beliefs - Aristotle - Logos, Pathos & Ethos

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Yeshua/Jesus: God’s Tangible Sign

Ravi Zacharias Int'l Ministries Web Page

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Excerpt from Introduction ---- Logos, Pathos & Ethos
Taken from Life of Jesus: Who He Is and Why He Matters
by John Dickson (Zondervan, 2010).
Copyright © 2010 by John Dickson.
Used by permission of Zondervan
John Dickson is Senior Research Fellow of the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University, co-director of the Centre for Public Christianity in Australia, and an adjunct apologist with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Three hundred years before Yeshua/Christ the Greek philosopher Aristotle made an observation about you and me that I think has stood the test of time. In his book On Rhetoric he laid out a theory about how people form their beliefs, that is, how they come to be persuaded by political, religious, ethical and cultural argument. His work, incidentally, was literally the textbook on persuasion for the next two thousand years, right up until the 18th century. Long before our postmodern love of deconstructing viewpoints and seeing through media spin readers of Aristotle delighted in learning from one of history’s greatest minds about why some messages seem compelling to us and others do not.

The Way We Believe
Aristotle said that people form their beliefs on the basis of a combination of three factors: what he called logos, pathos and ethos. Logos is the intellectual dimension. It is the part in us (or in the argument we are listening to) that corresponds to logic and commonsense. As rational beings we like to know that our beliefs are generally factual, reasonable and grounded in something other than wishful thinking. I’m sure most of us would agree so far with the great Athenian philosopher.

But it is a foolish person, Aristotle argued, who thinks we form our beliefs only on the basis of intellect. In addition to logos there is pathos. This is the personal or emotional dimension of belief and it is just as real as the rational part. An argument with pathos is one with a beauty and poignancy that resonates with our deepest self. A message of this kind meets our passions and longings. Don’t misunderstand me. Aristotle was not talking about mere frivolous artistry. He hated what he called mere “sophistry”—a message that was all style and no substance. Part of the reason he wrote his book was to criticize this form of persuasion. Nevertheless, Aristotle was adamant that there was a good pathos, in which a well-made argument also corresponds to our perfectly reasonable expectation that what is true should also be attractive and personally satisfying. This is another way of saying that people rarely change their minds on big issues based only on information. (emphasis added)

Finally, there is ethos. This is the social dimension of persuasion. What we believe is hugely influenced by our upbringing, our education and the circle of friends we find ourselves in. It is part of our human nature to accept more readily the views of people we know, admire, trust and love. In Aristotle’s own words: “we believe fair-minded people to a greater extent and more quickly than we do others on all subjects in general and completely so in cases where there is not exact knowledge but room for doubt.” (1) Since the 1960s this has been known as the “sociology of knowledge”—the way our social context informs and frames our perspective—but Aristotle put his finger on it millennia ago.

Take climate change. How do we form our views on this fraught topic? It would be unrealistic to assume that you and I hold our respective views based on facts alone (logos). Professional climate scientists aside, most of us do not have firsthand knowledge of the data. We become climate change believers or deniers not just because of formal evidence but also because of personal (pathos) and social factors (ethos). On the one hand, those of us with slightly activist temperaments or “apocalyptic” personalities will find ourselves drawn toward dramatic climate change scenarios. On the other hand, those who like a good conspiracy theory will easily suspect that the guild of climate change scientists have some ulterior motive in presenting their case. This is pathos at work. More simply, chances are we all find ourselves influenced by social factors on this question (ethos). Our political bias, the university we attended, the friends we talk to about the topic: each of these will have had some impact on our thinking.

What’s this got to do with the life of Yeshua/Jesus—the man and why he matters? Put simply, on a topic as complex and far-reaching as this we ought to acknowledge that our current beliefs—whether positive or negative—will have developed partly through logos, partly through pathos and partly through ethos. No one embraces faith in Yeshua the Anointed One/Jesus Christ based solely on factual evidence. Equally, no one rejects Christianity or loses their faith solely because of (a lack of) facts. A combination of intellectual, personal and social factors is at work.

What I find so interesting as I ponder Aristotle’s insight is the way contemporary believers readily admit the multifaceted nature of their faith. When Christians talk about how they “became Christians,” they will often mention an intellectual component, a personal component and a social component. They will talk about some book they read or sermon they heard that laid out the facts about God and Christ. Their intellect was nourished and impressed. But they will also happily tell you, for example, how one day while pondering the significance of Yeshua/Jesus they felt a deep resonance with the Christian gospel. The message somehow became attractive and personally satisfying. It answered deep longings and clarified certain confusions. And very often such people will admit to having been drawn into a community of Christians, at school, church or wherever, whose lives had an authenticity and goodness that was hard to argue with.

But what I find especially fascinating is the way many skeptics of religion today will not admit that they are skeptics for the same combination of reasons. Instead, they claim to resist Christianity for logical reasons only. There is not enough proof for the reality of God, they say. Books and documentaries on Yeshua/Jesus have undermined his uniqueness or even existence. “I would believe,” I have heard my skeptical friends say, “if only you gave me some proof.”


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Yeshua/Jesus: God’s Tangible Sign

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