ETHOS is ‘guiding beliefs’. Thus, this word indicates the leading ideals that characterize a community, nation or ideology. For instance, it is possible to say “the <ethos> of Ancient Sparta was as strong as to characterize the city among the others”. The concept of characterization brings us to another translation of <ethos> which is ‘character’. Anyway, all the nuances take towards a range of meanings revolving around morality and moral character. Another example comes from the American-born British poet T. S. Eliot. In 1940 he writes that “the general <ethos> of the people they have to govern, determines the behavior of politicians“.

Sokratiko Logo

<Ethos> is ‘guiding beliefs’ although in rhetoric, <ethos> is one of the three artistic proofs (<pistis>) or modes of persuasion. In fact, the other two are <logos> and <pathos>. In Rhetoric Aristoteles (Aristotle) maintains that speakers must define <ethos> from the beginning of the speech. However, he extends the notion of <ethos> beyond “moral competence”, including expertise and knowledge as well. Aristoteles thinks that what defines the <ethos> is the content of the speech. For him, three are the categories of <ethos>: phronesis that is wisdom; arete that is virtue; eunoia that is goodwill towards the audience.

In Stoic philosophy the term <ethos> refers to ‘habit’ and many thinkers devote to that notion a significant attention. As an example, Epiktetos (Epictetus) in Discourses 3.12.6 says: “habit is such a powerful influence. We use to pursue our impulses to gain and avoid outside our own choice. So we should set a contrary habit against that, and where appearances are really slippery, use the counterforce of our training” .