Artistic Proofs

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms - Definitions and Examples

artistic proofs
According to Aristotle, the most important "means of persuasion" are the artistic proofs of ethos, pathos, and logos. (Peter Booth/Getty Images)


In classical rhetoric, artistic proofs are proofs (or means of persuasion) that are created by a speaker. In Greek, entechnoi pisteis. Also known as artificial proofs, technical proofs, or intrinsic proofs. Contrast with inartistic proofs.

"[A]rtistic proofs," says Michael Burke, "are arguments or proofs that need skill and effort in order to be brought into being. Non-artistic proofs are arguments or proofs that need no skill or real effort to be created; rather, they simply need to be recognised--taken off the shelf, as it were--and employed by a writer or speaker" (The Routledge Handbook of Stylistics, 2014).

In Aristotle's rhetorical theory, the artistic proofs are ethos (ethical proof), pathos (emotional proof), and logos (logical proof).

See Examples and Observation below. Also, see:

Examples and Observations

  • "Logos, ethos, and pathos are relevant to all three kinds of rhetorical speeches (forensic [or judicial], epideictic and deliberative). Although these proofs overlap in the sense that they often work together in persuasive oratory, logos is most concerned with the speech per se; ethos with the speaker; and pathos with the audience." (Sheila Steinberg, Persuasive Communication Skills. Juta & Co., 2006)
  • "One crude way I've chosen to encapsulate [the artistic proofs] in the past is as follows: Ethos: 'Buy my old car because I'm Tom Magliozzi.' Logos: 'Buy my old car because yours is broken and mine is the only one on sale.' Pathos: 'Buy my old car or this cute little kitten, afflicted with a rare degenerative disease, will expire in agony, for my car is the last asset I have in the world, and I am selling it to pay for kitty's medical treatment.'" (Sam Leith, Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric From Aristotle to Obama. Basic Books, 2012)

    Aristotle on Inartistic and Artistic Proofs

    • "Of the modes of persuasion some belong strictly to the art of rhetoric and some do not. By the latter [i.e., inartistic proofs] I mean such things as are not supplied by the speaker but are there at the outset--witnesses, evidence given under torture, written contracts, and so on. By the former [i.e., artistic proofs] I mean such as we can ourselves construct by means of the principles of rhetoric. The one kind has merely to be used, the other has to be invented.

      "Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible [ethos]. . . . This kind of persuasion, like the others, should be achieved by what the speaker says, not by what people think of his character before he begins to speak. . . . Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions [pathos]. Our judgments when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile. . . . Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question [logos]." (Aristotle, Rhetoric, 4th century BC)

      Cicero on the Artistic Proofs

      • "[In De Oratore] Cicero explains that the art of speaking relies wholly on three means of persuasion: to be able to prove opinions, to win an audience's favour, and finally to rouse their feelings according to the motivation which the case requires:
        The method employed in the art of oratory, then, relies entirely upon three means of persuasion: proving that our contentions are true . . ., winning over our audience . . ., and inducing their minds to feel any emotion the case may demand . . .. ( De Oratore 2, 115)
        Here, the Aristotelian paternity of the ratio Cicero intends to discuss is again clear. The description of Cicero echoes the artistic proofs."
        (Sara Rubinelli, Ars Topica: The Classical Technique of Constructing Arguments From Aristotle to Cicero. Springer, 2009)

      Rhetorical Analysis and the Artistic Proofs

      • "[I]f we examine former President George W. Bush's 2005 State of the Union Address, we would discuss inartistic proofs, such as the evidence he used to support his claims for continuing the U.S. military efforts in Iraq and for changing Social Security. We would also examine artistic proofs--his use of logos, ethos, and pathos.
        In terms of logos, what specific appeals to logic did Bush make in terms of Iraq and Social Security? One such appeal was his reasoning that we had to fight in Iraq in the name of democracy, and another way was that doing nothing about Social Security will result in its collapse by 2042 (Bush, February 2, 2005).

        We would also examine the strength of his appeals to ethos. What strategies did he use to portray himself as someone with strong principles and a trustworthy character? We might focus, in part, on the number of times he mentioned God and morality in his speech. Finally, we would examine pathos, his appeals to emotion and their apparent impact on the audience.

        How often did he use fear appeals of terrorist attacks, for example, when justifying continued military efforts in Iraq? In each case, the rhetorical critic highlights appeals to logos or ethos or pathos being made and the apparent impact of each appeal on the speaker's audience. Did Bush succeed in influencing his audience to agree with his argument? Why or why not?" (Deanna D. Sellnow, The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture: Considering Mediated Texts. Sage, 2010)

        On the Lighter Side: Gérard Depardieu's Use of the Artistic Proofs

        • "[Gérard] Depardieu announced that he was surrendering his [French] passport because he was a citizen of the world, who had been disrespected. 'I am to be neither pitied nor praised, but I reject the word "pathetic,"' he concluded.

          "His cri de coeur wasn't really meant to be read; it was meant to be heard. It was an oration, appealing to ethos ('I was born in 1948, I began working at fourteen as a printer, a warehouse worker, and then as a dramatic artist'); logos ('I have paid a hundred and forty-five million euros in taxes over forty-five years'); and pathos ('No one who has left France has been injured as I have'). It was a eulogy for himself, a departed citizen." (Lauren Collins, "L'Étranger." The New Yorker, February 25, 2013)
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          Your Citation
          Nordquist, Richard. "Artistic Proofs." ThoughtCo, Apr. 3, 2017, Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 3). Artistic Proofs. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Artistic Proofs." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 23, 2018).