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Author Topic: Logos vs Pathos
babooher
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Completely subjective question here, but something I'm interested in. When do you all think it is okay for a character's emotions to override a character's logic?
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wetwilly
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I'm not actually sure how to answer this. When it is in character to do so? I know that's a non-answer, but it's the only answer I have for that.

Why? What are you working on?

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extrinsic
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Logos and pathos and also related rhetorical persuasive appeal ethos develop different emphases depending on composition metagenre. An argumentation composition would favor logos and next ethos (credibility) over pathos. Logos, or reason more so than logic, is appeals to reason. A reasonable person might argue, for example, that effect follows cause, causality, which is the core of logic.

Pathos, however, is favored and emphasized in performance metagenre, like fiction: appeals to emotion. A reasonable person might know if he or she is being unreasonable, but that an emotional action contravening reason may be more likely (causal).

Say a person discovers that his car has been ransacked overnight. All that's missing is a few coins for tolls and parking meters. Reasonably, not much to get excited about but, emotionally, a disturbingly profound problem. An emotional, unreasonable reaction might be accusing the next-door neighbor, escalating an otherwise trivial event into a dramatic confrontation.

Pathos arises when a dramatic complication's want and problem stimuli reasonably and credibly, and logically, causes emotional responses. Without pathos, actually, performance metagenre are flat and lifeless, lackluster and directionless.

Also related but not discussed at the link below is kleos, or appeals from reputation. Developing a character's identity develops his, her, or its reputation. If a character reacts emotionally early on, the character has a reputation for emotional responses. The character will be expected to react similarly later on. Or as well if reacting reasonably or credibly. However, as a dramatic complication's burden mounts, at some point, a breaking point will be reached, ideally one that compels a character to act proactively though, contrarily, reasonably and emotionally.

See Silva Rhetoricae "Persuasive Appeals" for further disucussion of pathos, ethos, and logos:

"Persuasive Appeals"

[ July 27, 2013, 10:52 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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babooher
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I'm happy with what I have been working on, wetwilly, but I realized that my character was not behaving as rationally as I would. I don't think he's being irrational--just not doing a cost/benefit analysis in the way I would. I think he's behaving in an understandable manner..

I guess that's kind of what I'm exploring. As a writer, I tend to want my characters to act logically, but humans aren't exactly all logical. But having characters behave on emotional whims is probably (in my opinion and others can discuss this) worse than having them behave totally logically. I think I've given my character enough history within the story that his emotional decision is understandable even if it isn't logical. So, without the history I don't think this would work, but that's my take on it. Even though the plot demands that the character acts illogically, I think I would have trashed the story without the history. But people make irrational decisions all the time without a history to explain why they're being irrational. So, as a general field of interest, I wondered when readers and writers thought it was okay for a character's emotions to overpower his or her logic.

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wetwilly
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I definitely think it's a matter of characterization. Some people make decisions logically, some make them emotionally. In fact, most (if not all) people sometimes do one and sometimes do the other. Or maybe the waters are even muddier, and most decisions are a combination of logic and emotion.

I don't think there is anything wrong with a character deciding based on emotion, if that has been established as part of his M.O., or if the emotion is strong enough in this instance to override his normal logic. In fact, given a strong enough emotional stimulus, I might find it strange if a character responds logically.

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Pyre Dynasty
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quote:
Originally posted by babooher:
When do you all think it is okay for a character's emotions to override a character's logic?

When that character's name is Spock. Seriously.

When the story calls for it.

When there isn't time to make a pro/con list.

I read once that someone asked a firefighter how they make decisions at a disaster, they were expecting a "weigh the options" kind of answer but were stunned when the firefighter said that he takes the first course of action he sees. He doesn't think about other options at all, he doesn't have time to.

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rcmann
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quote:
Originally posted by babooher:
Completely subjective question here, but something I'm interested in. When do you all think it is okay for a character's emotions to override a character's logic?

When they are upset enough.

Depends on the person. A cold blooded assassin, not very often. A terrified parent who is trying to find their lost child in a POW camp, quite frequently.

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redux
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Most decisions are actually emotionally based.

Usually, when people make up their minds they say "I have a good feeling about this." They don't say "This is the logical course of action."

It's when people behave out of character, contrary to their personality, that we say they are being irrational, concluding that they must be acting out of emotion and not intellect. In instances such as these, the emotions simply become so overpowering that they override any form of critical thinking. Crimes of passion usually fall into this category.

Here are some examples of decision making.

The man who decides to stay in an abusive relationship appears to be behaving irrationally only if we do not see what is emotionally motivating him to remain in that relationship. Is he afraid of failure? Does he feel somehow responsible for his partner's behavior? For instance, the man might think to himself, she loved me and took care of me when I was at my weakest, I would be betraying her if I left her now when she needs me most, even though she keeps giving me black eyes.

Likewise, the woman who goes to Vegas to gamble her life savings might seem irrational until we find out, for instance, that she is motivated by equal parts love and equal parts hate. Her husband is divorcing her, he met a younger (gold-digging) woman, so she taps into their joint bank account and decides to gamble away all their money.

These (to me) are all logical decisions.

A character's emotional motivations must first be clear, only then can their decisions appear to be logical. For characters to appear human, there must be emotional motivations to their decision making.

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wetwilly
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Well said, redux.
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