Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Logos, Mythos, and Ethos


I believe it was Aristotle that proposed that a speaker must have logos, ethos and pathos in order to communicate effectively. As I try to remember lectures from my college speech classes, it seems the logos was the appeal to logic and reason. Ethos was the general character of the speaker. The audience must feel that he has their best interest when he speaks. And pathos was the appeal to the emotions. (While writing I found this short explanation)

Recently, I have been thinking about three other -oses(technically -oi). Logos, Mythos, and Ethos, but in a very restrictive sense. (As a background note, this is not a well researched entry, just my opinion. My former profs will be horrified at my lack of scholarly application to Greek Word Studies.) While logos, mythos, ethos, and even pathos are in the Greek Bible, these words have evolved both into Koine language and out from Koine.

Recently, I was visiting a book store and ran across a book about Megatrends of Europe. Interesting theories, and besides, what do I know about trends and trying to evaluate them? But it got me thinking more about something I had been mulling over in my mind.

How do myths effect behavior? We all believe in myths (what I will call individual mythos and collective mythos). For example we all believe something about the origin of the universe as well as human origin. As Christians our collective mythos (of which our Jewish friends share) is the Genesis account.****Now, before I am hung up by the highest tree or burned at the stake for heresy, let me state that when I use the term mythos, I am using the term in a pretty strict sense, that is how one explains things around them. The mythos could be true or not. In the modern era, no one "believes" the Greek or Roman mythoi, but it was an explanation of things. But for the record I have no problem "believing" the mythos, stated in the book of Genesis, to be true***** One modern mythos would be the classic Darwin explanation of origins. And yes, I am calling Darwinism a myth, a modern myth though. I am not saying it is "true" or "false," I am just saying it is a myth. In fact, I will go so far as to say that Newton's "laws" of physics, which have been tested and assigned the name "law," are myths. They explain why things act in a certain way.

We are so used to understanding "myths" as pre-modern explanations of the world that to even suggest a myth exists in the modern or postmodern world is akin to blasphemy. So be it. This is why when one talks about the Bible containing myths, some feel uncomfortable. Myths=untrue. So to call anything in the Bible a myth usually means saying it is not true. Again, I am not saying anything about the veracity of myths, I am just defining them (And again, I have no problem believing the Creation story in Genesis to be true).

So, in community and as individuals we have and need myths.

How are the mythoi (plural of mythos) formed? Mythos come from the Logos. We get all sorts of concepts from the word logos. There are "logic," "reason," "word," "thought," and etc. etc. So, if one will, behind every explanation (mythos) of how things are is a reason (logos). Logos ,then, precedes mythos.

Since myths exist how should we then act, what is the ethos? If one deems the myths as logical, then one will act according. Behavior follows belief. Of course, I can not think of an example to illustrate this. Thereore, until I can, I will have to concede the point of any relationship between mythos and ethos.

But, if there is a connection, the logos (word, thought, reason) creates what we see and feel and touch and smell and hear (as well as what we can't see, feel, touch, and hear). Since, in the case of origin, we are what the Logos has created, we are allowed with our own logos to create the explanation (our mythos). Sometimes our "creation" is based on revelation, and sometimes not. The mythos does affect (and we can see its effects also) how we behave (our ethos).

If the natural world is all there is, let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.

PS Realizing this is a pretty poor attempt at explaining what was in my head.

4 comments:

Kc said...

I think you just explained why it is so important for us to question what we believe and why we believe it.

"...the point of any relationship between mythos and ethos." Faith? I think it's called theory in science. ;-)

pecheur said...

Yes, we must know why we believe what we believe.

pauly hart said...

i like it. working on mythos and ethos stuff right now and google found you.

Pecheur said...

You are very kind, Pauly hart. Let me know what you come up with, I'd be interested in knowing. Take care.