Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Ashley Scott

Professor Wexler

English 436

July 13, 2010

Why do people have such high influence over others? How did slavery end or even begin? How did the holocaust happen? All this resulted from persuasive human beings. They fortify their power with the use of speech or rhetoric. This can range from small decisions to world changing decisions depending on the influencers motives. Aristotle, an ancient philosopher, believed that using rhetoric was one of the most powerful means of persuasion. He believes that , "rhetoric seems to be able to observe the persuasive about 'the given'..."(Aristotle 115). In the YouTube clip "Motivation", Peter Gibbons explains to his lay off interviewers the problems at the company Initech during which he uses some of Aristotles theories on rhetoric such as ethos, logos, and pathos.
Aristotle believes that one of the species of speech is ethos in which a person gives themself a character and disposes the listener in some way which Gibbon's does in the YouTube clip (115). He does this by addressing his interviewers by their first name, Bob, which takes the authority away from them and lets him be the controller of the conversation. He also has very calm body language, almost too calm for a job interview which shows that he does not need them and gives him power. He uses ethos by giving himself authority and credence. As well, he is employed by Initech so he knows first hand the system in which it works and he tells them how lacking the company is instead of them addressing him as the problem. He influences them to believe that the company is the problem, not the workers.
Another one of Aristotle's species of speech that Gibbons excersizes is logos. Logos shows or seems to show something that instills their opinion to appear logical and rational (Aristotle 115). Gibbons does this by explaining why people do not work hard at Initech. He says, " If I work my [butt] off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime! So where's the motivation?"(Gibbons). He shows that because Initech does not give out commission to it's empolyees, they have no real motivation to go above and beyond the limits needed to keep their job (Gibbons). In this way, Gibbons uses logos to make a logical reasoning as to why the company isn't working well and it is due to their lack of benefits for employees and not the employees themselves.
Aristotle's last species of speech that Gibbons uses is pathos where a speaker incorporates emotion in their speech. Aristotle says, "[There is persuasion] through the hearers when they are led to feel emotion [pathos] by the speech; for we do not give the same judgement when grieved and rejoicing or when being friendly and hostile"(115, 116). When a speaker makes their audience feel emotion, the viewers opinion tends to change for better or worse but there is a definite change either way and this is a form of persuasion. Gibbons uses pathos when he says he has eight bosses and only does his work because each of them hassle him. The interviewers feel sympathy for him and understand his annoyance of having eight bosses. He also shows how fed up he is by saying he doesn't even care anymore, so they try to offer him things instead of firing him which is a definite change in their initial opinion before they met him. At the end he says his good bye's very amiably and appeals to their emotions in a friendly way.
Aristotle's theory of ethos, logos, and pathos, in his work "On Rhetoric", are exemplified in the YouTube clip "Motivation", where Peter Gibbons completely influences his interviewers to side with him and to oppose Initech. He gives himself authority, shows them logical reasoning, and appeals to their emotions. This leaves them in friendly standings and lets Gibbons keep his job (even though he does not care for it anymore).

Works Cited

Aristotle. "On Rhetoric". The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York:
W. W. Norton &, 2010. 115-16. Print.
YouTube - Motivation. Perf. Ron Livingston, John C. McGinley, and Paul Willson. YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 13 July 2010.

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