Kairos means the right moment or, more simply, timeliness. Appeals to emotion are more likely to be effective work if they are also timely. For example, people were more likely to give to charities related to 9/11 soon after the tragedy than they are now. However, donations still rise nearer the actual date of September 11 each year. This is an intersection of kairos and pathos. In other words, people’s emotions are heightened because of the time. Timeliness and emotion might be tied to an annual event such as sadness or depression on the anniversary of a loved one’s death or pride in America at the 4th of July. Other examples could have much larger time frames, such as suspicion and fear of one’s neighbors during the Communist witch hunts of the 1940s and 50s. Or they could be on a much smaller scale, like someone being more generous and cheerful than normal on Friday evenings. When writing and considering an appeal to pathos, also consider the timeliness. If you were writing a piece on why present-day Americans should fear a widespread viral infectious disease outbreak, it might seem untimely to use the example of smallpox, which was eradicated decades ago, especially since there have been more recent diseases that present greater threats to the limits of modern medicine.
Kairos and Pathos
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