Thomas Paine began writing Common Sense in 1775 with the help of Benjamin Rush as an effort to persuade the American people that the British Crown and parliament held no good will towards Americans, and that their only remedy from abusive taxes was independence. This forty-five-page pamphlet was written in language that all Americans could understand, and was devoid of Enlightenment Era philosophy and Latin references that were often used in rhetoric of the day in order to reach even uneducated men.
The goal of argumentative writing, or rhetoric, is to persuade your audience that your ideas are valid, or more valid than someone else’s. The Greek philosopher Aristotle divided the means of persuasive appeals into three categories–Ethos, Pathos, Logos.
• Ethos (Credibility), or ethical appeal, means convincing the audience of the validity of the argument based upon the character or particular qualifications of the author. We tend to believe people whom we respect. One of the central problems of argumentation is to project an impression to the reader that you are someone worth listening to, in other words making yourself as author into an authority on the subject of the paper, as well as someone who is likable and worthy of respect.
• Pathos (Emotional) means persuading by appealing to the reader’s emotions. We can look at texts ranging from classic essays to contemporary advertisements to see how pathos, emotional appeals, are used to persuade. Language choice affects the audience’s emotional response, and emotional appeal can effectively be used to enhance an argument.
• Logos (Logical) means persuading by the use of reasoning. Logos (Greek for ‘word’) refers to the internal consistency of the message–the clarity of the claim, the logic of its reasons, and the effectiveness of its supporting evidence. The impact of logos on an audience is sometimes called the argument’s logical appeal. (eg. if A + B = D and A + C = D then B = C)
Paine used all three of these elements of persuasion in Common Sense, and your task in writing this four to five page paper is to decide which of these elements Paine used most effectively, and what made it effective. What was the political, social, or economic situation at the time that made his Ethical, Emotional, or Logical approach persuade Americans that they needed to declare independence from Britain?
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