Logos (UK /, /, US //; Greek: λόγος, from λέγω lego "I say") is an important term in western philosophy, psychology, rhetoric, and religion. It is a Greek word meaning "ground", "plea", "opinion", "expectation", "word", "speech", "account", "reason", "discourse", but it became a technical term in philosophy beginning with Heraclitus (c. 535–475 BCE), who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge. Logos is the logic behind an argument. Logos tries to persuade an audience using logical arguments and supportive evidence. Logos is a persuasive technique often used in writing and rhetoric.
Ancient Greek philosophers used the term in different ways. The sophists used the term to mean discourse, and Aristotle applied the term to refer to "reasoned discourse" or "the argument" in the field of rhetoric. The Stoic philosophers identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading the Universe. Under Hellenistic Judaism, Philo (c. 20 BCE – 50 CE) adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. The Gospel of John identifies the Logos, through which all things are made, as divine (theos), and further identifies Jesus Christ as the incarnate Logos. Although the term "Logos" is widely used in this Christian sense, in academic circles it often refers to the various ancient Greek uses, or to post-Christian uses within contemporary philosophy, Sufism, and the analytical psychology of Carl Jung.
Despite the conventional translation as "word", it is not used for a word in the grammatical sense; instead, the term lexis (λέξις) was used. However, both logos and lexis derive from the same verb legō (λέγω), meaning "count, tell, say, speak".
Professor Jeanne Fahnestock describes logos as a "premise." She states that, to find the reason behind a rhetor's backing of a certain position or stance, one must acknowledge the different "premises" that the rhetor applies via his or her chosen diction. She continues by stating that the rhetor's success will come down to "certain objects of agreement...between arguer and audience." "Logos is logical appeal, and the term logic is derived from it. It is normally used to describe facts and figures that support the speaker's topic." Furthermore, logos is credited with appealing to the audience's sense of logic, with the definition of “logic” being concerned with the thing as it is known. Furthermore, you can appeal to this sense of logic in two ways: 1) through inductive logic, providing the audience with relevant examples and using them to point back to the overall statement; 2) through deductive enthymeme, providing the audience with general scenarios and then pulling out a certain truth.
Philo distinguished between logos prophorikos ("the uttered word") and the logos endiathetos ("the word remaining within"). The Stoics also spoke of the logos spermatikos (the generative principle of the Universe), which is not important in the Biblical tradition but is relevant in Neoplatonism. Early translators from Greek, such as Jerome in the 4th century, were frustrated by the inadequacy of any single Latin word to convey the Logos expressed in the Gospel of John. The Vulgate Bible usage of in principio erat verbum was thus constrained to use the (perhaps inadequate) noun verbum for "word", but later romance language translations had the advantage of nouns such as le mot in French. Reformation translators took another approach. Martin Luther rejected Zeitwort (verb) in favor of Wort (word), for instance, although later commentators repeatedly turned to a more dynamic use involving the living word as felt by Jerome and Augustine.
Ancient Greek philosophy
The writing of Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BCE) was the first place where the word logos was given special attention in ancient Greek philosophy, although Heraclitus seems to use the word with a meaning not significantly different from the way in which it was used in ordinary Greek of his time. For Heraclitus, logos provided the link between rational discourse and the world's rational structure.
This logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this logos, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep.— Diels-Kranz, 22B1
For this reason it is necessary to follow what is common. But although the logos is common, most people live as if they had their own private understanding.— Diels-Kranz, 22B2
Listening not to me but to the logos it is wise to agree that all things are one.
What logos means here is not certain; it may mean 'reason' or 'explanation' in the sense of an objective cosmic law, or it may signify nothing more than 'saying' or 'wisdom'. Yet, an independent existence of a universal logos was clearly suggested by Heraclitus.
Aristotle identifies two specific types of persuasion methods: artistic and inartistic. He defines artistic proofs as arguments that the rhetor generates and creates on his own. Examples of these include relationships, testimonies, and conjugates. He defines inartistic proofs as arguments that the rhetor quotes using information from a non-self-generated source. Examples of these include laws, contracts, and oaths.
Aristotle's rhetorical logos
Following one of the other meanings of the word, Aristotle gave logos a different technical definition in the Ars Rhetorica, using it as meaning argument from reason, one of the three modes of persuasion. (The other two modes are pathos (Greek: πάθος), which refers to persuasion by means of emotional appeal, "putting the hearer into a certain frame of mind", and ethos (ἦθος), persuasion through convincing listeners of one's "moral character.") According to Aristotle, logos relates to "the speech itself, in so far as it proves or seems to prove." In the words of Paul Rahe:
For Aristotle, logos is something more refined than the capacity to make private feelings public: it enables the human being to perform as no other animal can; it makes it possible for him to perceive and make clear to others through reasoned discourse the difference between what is advantageous and what is harmful, between what is just and what is unjust, and between what is good and what is evil.
Logos, pathos, and ethos can all be appropriate at different times. Arguments from reason (logical arguments) have some advantages, namely that data are (ostensibly) difficult to manipulate, so it is harder to argue against such an argument; and such arguments make the speaker look prepared and knowledgeable to the audience, enhancing ethos. On the other hand, trust in the speaker, built through ethos, enhances the appeal of arguments from reason.
Robert Wardy suggests that what Aristotle rejects in supporting the use of logos "is not emotional appeal per se, but rather emotional appeals that have no 'bearing on the issue,' in that the pathē they stimulate lack, or at any rate are not shown to possess, any intrinsic connection with the point at issue – as if an advocate were to try to whip an anti-Semitic audience into a fury because the accused is Jewish; or as if another in drumming up support for a politician were to exploit his listeners's reverential feelings for the politician's ancestors."
Aristotle comments on the three modes by stating: "Persuasion is clearly a sort of demonstration, since we are most fully persuaded when we consider a thing to have been demonstrated. Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. […] Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. [...] Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers,when the speech stirs their emotions. [...]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.” -Aristotle, "Rhetoric", 350 BCE
Stoic philosophy began with Zeno of Citium c. 300 BCE, in which the logos was the active reason pervading and animating the universe. It was conceived of as material, and is usually identified with God or Nature. The Stoics also referred to the seminal logos ("logos spermatikos"), or the law of generation in the universe, which was the principle of the active reason working in inanimate matter. Humans, too, each possess a portion of the divine logos.
The Stoics took all activity to imply a Logos, or spiritual principle. As the operative principle of the world, the Logos was anima mundi to them, a concept which later influenced Philo of Alexandria, although he derived the contents of the term from Plato.
Public discourse on ancient Greek rhetoric has historically emphasized Aristotle’s appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos, while less attention has been directed to Isocrates’ teachings about philosophia and logos, and their partnership in generating an ethical, mindful polis. Isocrates does not provide a single definition of logos in his work, but Isocratean logos characteristically focuses on speech, reason, and civic discourse. He was concerned with establishing the “common good” of Athenian citizens which, he professed, could be achieved through the pursuit of philosophia and the application of logos.
Logos in Hellenistic Judaism
In the Septuagint the term logos is used for the word of God in the creation of heaven in Psalm 33:6, and in some related contexts.
Philo of Alexandria
Philo (20 BCE – 50 CE), a Hellenized Jew, used the term Logos to mean an intermediary divine being, or demiurge. Philo followed the Platonic distinction between imperfect matter and perfect Form, and therefore intermediary beings were necessary to bridge the enormous gap between God and the material world. The Logos was the highest of these intermediary beings, and was called by Philo "the first-born of God." Philo also wrote that "the Logos of the living God is the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevents them from being dissolved and separated."
Plato's Theory of Forms was located within the Logos, but the Logos also acted on behalf of God in the physical world. In particular, the Angel of the Lord in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was identified with the Logos by Philo, who also said that the Logos was God's instrument in the creation of the universe.
Christ the Logos
The Christian concept of the Logos is derived from the first chapter of the Gospel of John, where the Logos (often translated as “Word”) is described in terms that resemble, but likely surpass, the ideas of Philo:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.
John also explicitly identifies the Logos with Jesus:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'"
Non-trinitarian Arian theologians taught:
God the Father created the Logos as a divine being before the creation of the world. The Son of God was subordinate to God.
Trinitarian theologian Frank Stagg writes:
As the Logos, Jesus Christ is God in self-revelation (Light) and redemption (Life). He is God to the extent that he can be present to man and knowable to man. The Logos is God,[Jn 1:1] ... Yet the Logos is in some sense distinguishable from God, for "the Logos was with God".[Jn 1:1] God and the Logos are not two beings, and yet they are also not simply identical. ... The Logos is God active in creation, revelation, and redemption.
"God" or "a god"
The last four words of John 1:1 (Greek: θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, literally "God was the Logos", or "God was the Word") have been a particular topic of debate between Jehovah's Witnesses and other Christians. In this construct, the subject (the Logos) and the complement (God) both appear in the nominative case, and the complement is therefore usually distinguished by dropping any article and moving it before the verb. Grammatically, the phrase could therefore read either "the Word was God" or "the Word was 'a' god". Different translators decide to add it or to not add it. However, according to a grammatical construction known as Colwell's Rule, the predicate of a predicate nominative should not be considered indefinite unless the context demands it. "God" (Greek: θεὸς, theos) is the predicate in the predicate nominative construction, so it is unlikely that the noun "God" is indefinite (requiring "a god" rather than "God"). Early New Testament manuscripts did not distinguish upper and lower case, although many scholars see the movement of "God" to the front of the clause as indicating an emphasis more consistent with "the Word was God". Some translations preserve a sense of ambiguity with "the Word was divine", such as An American Translation and Moffatt, New Translation. Related translations have also been suggested, such as "what God was, the Word also was".
"The Word was God" is by far the most common English translation, although it is translated "the Word was a god" by the Jehovah's Witnesses (in the New World Translation and their edition of the Emphatic Diaglott) and Unitarians (in Thomas Belsham's modification of William Newcome's version).
In Gnosticism, the Logos is often associated or paired with Sophia or wisdom. In Valentinianism, Logos and Sophia are a syzygy, or pair of aeons. The 'Fall of sophia' and subsequent rescue by the Logos is a major theme in Gnosticism and appears in the Pistis Sophia. Valentinius (c. 100 – c. 160) was said to be the first to introduce the 'Three Hypostases' of Platonism into Christianity, identifying them with the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Logos was fully identified with the Son and Christ.
“Logos” in Gnostic culture is usually associated with "Sophia". "Eventually Sophia was completely fused with Christ. Wisdom became Logos, and explicit associations between Sophia and Jesus disappeared from Christianity." Elizabeth Johnson states in "Wisdom Was Made Flesh" that masculine logos took over womanly wisdom "as it became unseemly, given the developing patriarchal tendencies in the church, to interpret the male Jesus with a female symbol of God".
Early Christian writers
Following John 1, the early Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c 150) identified Jesus as the Logos. Like Philo, Justin also identified the Logos with the Angel of the Lord, and used this as a way of arguing for Christianity to Jews:
I shall give you another testimony, my friends, from the Scriptures, that God begot before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos
In his First Apology, Justin used the Stoic concept of the Logos as a way of arguing for Christianity to non-Jews. Since a Greek audience would accept this concept, his argument could concentrate on identifying this Logos with Jesus. However, Justin does not go so far as to articulate a fully consistent doctrine of the Logos.
Rhema and logos
Some modern usage in Christian Theology distinguishes Rhema from Logos (which here refers to the written scriptures) while Rhema refers to the revelation received by the reader from the Holy Spirit when the Word (Logos) is read, although this distinction has been criticized.
Neoplatonist philosophers such as Plotinus (204/5–270 CE) used the term "Logos" in ways that drew on Plato and the Stoics, but the term Logos was interpreted in different ways throughout Neoplatonism, and similarities to Philo's concept of Logos appear to be accidental. The Logos was a key element in the meditations of Plotinus regarded as the first Neoplatonist. Plotinus referred back to Heraclitus and as far back as Thales in interpreting Logos as the principle of meditation, existing as the interrelationship between the Hypostases (The 'One', 'Spirit' (nous) and 'Soul').
Plotinus used a trinity concept that consisted of "The One", the "Spirit" and "Soul". The comparison with the Christian Trinity is inescapable, but for Plotinus these were not equal and "The One" was at the highest level, with the "Soul" at the lowest. For Plotinus, the relationship between the three elements of his trinity is conducted by the outpouring of Logos from the higher principle, and eros (loving) upward from the lower principle. Plotinus relied heavily on the concept of Logos, but no explicit references to Christian thought can be found in his works, although there are significant traces of them in his doctrine. Plotinus specifically avoided using the term Logos to refer to the second person of his trinity. However, Plotinus influenced Victorinus who then influenced Augustine of Hippo. Centuries later, Carl Jung acknowledged the influence of Plotinus in his writings.
Augustine of Hippo, often seen as the father of medieval philosophy, was also greatly influenced by Plato and is famous for his re-interpretation of Aristotle and Plato in the light of early Christian thought. A young Augustine experimented with, but failed to achieve ecstasy using the meditations of Plotinus. In his Confessions Augustine described Logos as the Divine Eternal Word, by which he, in part, was able to motivate the early Christian thought throughout the Greek-influenced world (of which the Latin speaking West was a part) Augustine's Logos had taken body in Christ, the man in whom the logos (i.e. veritas or sapientia) was present as in no other man.
The concept of Logos in Sufism is used to relate the "Uncreated" (God) to the "Created" (man). In Sufism, for the Deist, no contact between man and God can be possible without the Logos. The Logos is everywhere and always the same, but its personification is "unique" within each region. Jesus and Muhammad are seen as the personifications of the Logos, and this is what enables them to speak in such absolute terms.
One of the boldest and most radical attempts to reformulate the Neoplatonic concepts into Sufism arose with the philosopher Ibn Arabi, who traveled widely in Spain and North Africa. His concepts were expressed in two major works The Ringstones of Wisdom (Fusus al-Hikam) and The Meccan Illuminations (Al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya). To Ibn Arabi, every prophet corresponds to a reality which he called a Logos (Kalimah), as an aspect of the unique Divine Being. In his view the Divine Being would have for ever remained hidden, had it not been for the prophets, with Logos providing the link between man and divinity.
Ibn Arabi seems to have adopted his version of the Logos concept from Neoplatonic and Christian sources, although (writing in Arabic rather than Greek) he used more than twenty different terms when discussing it. For Ibn Arabi, the Logos or "Universal Man" was a mediating link between individual human beings and the divine essence.
Other Sufi writers also show the influence of the Neoplatonic Logos. In the 15th century ʻAbd al-Karim al-Jili introduced the Doctrine of Logos and the Perfect Man. For al-Jili the perfect man (associated with the Logos or the Holy Prophet) has the power to assume different forms at different times, and appear in different guises.
In Ottoman Sufism, Şeyh Gâlib (d. 1799) articulates Sühan (Logos-Kalima) in his Hüsn ü Aşk (Beauty and Love) in parallel to Ibn Arabi's kalima. In the romance, Sühan appears as an embodiment of kalima (word) as a reference to the Word of God, the Perfect Human Being and the Reality of Muhammad.
Jung's analytical psychology
Carl Jung contrasted the critical and rational faculties of logos with the emotional, non-reason oriented and mythical elements of eros. In Jung's approach, logos vs eros can be represented as "science vs mysticism", or "reason vs imagination" or "conscious activity vs the unconscious".
For Jung, logos represented the masculine principle of rationality, in contrast to its female counterpart, eros:
Woman’s psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, the great binder and loosener, whereas from ancient times the ruling principle ascribed to man is Logos. The concept of Eros could be expressed in modern terms as psychic relatedness, and that of Logos as objective interest.
Jung attempted to equate logos and eros, his intuitive conceptions of masculine and feminine consciousness, with the alchemical Sol and Luna. Jung commented that in a man the lunar anima and in a woman the solar animus has the greatest influence on consciousness. Jung often proceeded to analyze situations in terms of "paired opposites", e.g. by using the analogy with the eastern yin and yang and was also influenced by the Neoplatonists.
In so far as the spirit is also a kind of "window on eternity"... it conveys to the soul a certain influx divinus... and the knowledge of a higher system of the world, wherein consists precisely its supposed animation of the soul.
- Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek–English Lexicon: logos, 1889.
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- In the translation by W. Rhys Roberts, this reads "the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself."
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A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb.
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- e.g. King James Version, Revised Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, New Living Translation, English Standard Version, and Young's Literal Translation, with even more emphatic translations being "the Word was God Himself" (Amplified Bible) or "the Word ... was truly God" (Contemporary English Version).
- New World Translation
- As distributed by the Watch Tower Society, the Emphatic Diaglott has "a god was the Word". In the original 1865 edition, this can be found in the interlinear, but the English text has "the LOGOS was God".
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Ibn al-'Arabi uses no less than twenty-two different terms to describe the various aspects under which this single Logos may be viewed.
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For Ibn Arabi, the Logos or "Universal Man" was a mediating link between individual human beings and the divine essence.
- Edward Henry Whinfield, Masnavi I Ma'navi: The spiritual couplets of Maulána Jalálu-'d-Dín Muhammad Rúmí, Routledge, 2001 (originally published 1898), ISBN 0-415-24531-1, p. xxv.
- Biographical encyclopaedia of Sufis by N. Hanif 2002 ISBN 81-7625-266-2 p. 98
- Betül Avcı, "Character of Sühan in Şeyh Gâlib’s Romance, Hüsn ü Aşk (Beauty and Love)" Archivum Ottomanicum, 32 (2015).
- C.G. Jung and the psychology of symbolic forms by Petteri Pietikäinen 2001 ISBN 951-41-0857-4 p. 22
- Mythos and logos in the thought of Carl Jung by Walter A. Shelburne 1988 ISBN 0-88706-693-3 p. 4
- Carl Jung, Aspects of the Feminine, Princeton University Press, 1982, p. 65, ISBN 0-7100-9522-8.
- Aspects of the masculine by Carl Gustav Jung, John Beebe p. 85
- Carl Gustav Jung: critical assessments by Renos K. Papadopoulos 1992 ISBN 0-415-04830-3 p. 19
- See the Neoplatonic section above.
- The handbook of Jungian psychology: theory, practice and applications by Renos K. Papadopoulos 2006 ISBN 1-58391-147-2 p. 118