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- Practical Argumentation - 1/43 -




Assistant Professor of English and Rhetoric in The Pennsylvania State College



The author's aim has been to produce a book that is practical,-- practical from the student's standpoint, and practical from the teacher's standpoint. The study of Argumentation has often been criticized for being purely academic, or for being a mere stepping- stone to the study of law. It has even been said that courses in Argumentation and Debate have been introduced into American colleges and universities for no other purpose than to give the intellectual student the opportunity, so long monopolized by his athletic classmate, to take part in intercollegiate contests. The purpose of this book is to teach Argumentation, which is not a science by itself but one of the four branches of Rhetoric, in such a way as to remove these criticisms.

Largely by his choice of illustrative material the author has endeavored to show that this subject is confined neither to the class room nor to any one profession. He has drawn his illustrations, for the most part, from contemporary and popular sources; he has had recourse to many current magazines, newspapers, books, and recent speeches, hoping to show thereby that Argumentation is a practical subject. On the other hand, he has carefully avoided taking a majority of his illustrations either from students' work or from legal practice, criminal cases especially being seldom used on the ground that although they afford the easiest examples a writer can give, they furnish the least help to the average student, who, unless he studies law, will rarely, perhaps never, have occasion to argue upon such subjects.

This book cannot justly be called the effort of a single author. It is rather an outgrowth of the work that for many years has been carried on by the English department at The Pennsylvania State College. The book has, in fact, gradually developed in the class room. Every rule that is given has been tested time and again; every step has been carefully thought out and taught for several years.

The author wishes to acknowledge especial indebtedness to Professor Fred Lewis Pattee, who both inspired the writing of the book and assisted in the work. To Professor A. Howry Espenshade are due many thanks for invaluable suggestions and advice, and for a careful reading of the greater part of the manuscript. Mr. William S. Dye is also to be thanked for valuable assistance. As a student the author studied Baker's _Principles of Argumentation_; as a teacher he has taught Laycock and Scales' _Argumentation and Debate_, Alden's _The Art of Debate_, and Foster's _Argumentation and Debating_. The debt he owes to these is beyond estimate.

STATE COLLEGE, PA. March 17, 1909


I. Preliminaries

II. The Subject

III. The Introduction--Persuasion

IV. The Introduction--Conviction

V. The Introduction--Brief-Drawing

VI. The Discussion--Conviction and Persuasion

VII. The Discussion--Brief-Drawing

VIII. Methods of Refutation

IX. Debate--Some Practical Suggestions

X. The Conclusion


A. A Written Argument and its Brief B. A List of Propositions





Argumentation is the art of presenting truth so that others will accept it and act in accordance with it. Debate is a special form of argumentation: it is oral argumentation carried on by opposing sides.

A consideration of the service which argumentation performs shows that it is one of the noblest and most useful of arts. By argumentation men overthrow error and discover truth. Courts of law, deliberative assemblies, and all bodies of people that engage in discussion recognize this fact. Argumentation threshes out a problem until the chaff has blown away, when it is easy to see just what kernels of truth remain and what action ought to be taken. Men of affairs, before entering upon any great enterprise, call in advocates of different systems, and by becoming familiar with arguments from every point of view try to discover what is best. This method of procedure presupposes a difference of opinion and belief among men, and holds that when each one tries to establish his ideas, the truth will remain, and that which is false will be swept away.

The field of argumentation includes every kind of discourse that attempts to change man's actions or opinions. Exposition is explanation when only one theory or one interpretation of the facts is possible; when views of truth or of policy conflict, and one course is expounded in opposition to another, the process becomes argumentation. This art is used not only by professional speakers, but by men of every occupation. The schoolboy pleading for a holiday, the workman seeking employment, the statesman advocating a principle of government are all engaged in some form of argumentation. Everywhere that men meet together, on the street or in the assembly hall, debate is certain to arise. Written argument is no less common. Hardly a periodical is published but contains argumentative writing. The fiery editorial that urges voters to the polls, the calm and polished essay that points out the dangers of organized labor, the scientific treatise that demonstrates the practicability of a sea-level canal on the Isthmus are attempts to change existing conditions and ideas, and thus come within the field of argumentation.

The practical benefit to be derived from the study and application of the principles of argumentation can hardly be overestimated. The man who wishes to influence the opinions and actions of others, who wishes to become a leader of men in however great or however humble a sphere, must be familiar with this art. The editor, the lawyer, the merchant, the contractor, the laborer--men in every walk of life--depend for their success upon bringing others to believe, in certain instances, as they believe. Everywhere men who can point out what is right and best, and can bring others to see it and act upon it, win the day. Another benefit to be obtained from the study of argumentation is the ability to be convinced intelligently. The good arguer is not likely to be carried away by specious arguments or fallacious reasoning. He can weigh every bit of evidence; he can test the strength and weakness of every statement; he can separate the essential from the unessential; and he can distinguish between prejudice and reason. A master of the art of argumentation can both present his case convincingly to others, and discover the truth in a matter that is presented to him.

Argumentation can hardly be considered as a distinct art standing by itself; it is rather a composite of several arts, deriving its fundamentals from them, and depending upon them for its existence. In the first place, since argumentation is spoken or written discourse, it belongs to rhetoric, and the rules which govern composition apply to it as strongly as to any other kind of expression. In fact, perhaps rhetorical principles should be observed in argumentation more rigidly than elsewhere, for in the case of narration, description, or exposition, the reader or hearer, in an endeavor to derive pleasure or profit, is seeking the author, while in argumentation it is the author who is trying to force his ideas upon the audience. Hence an argument must contain nothing crude or repulsive, but must be attractive in every detail. In the second place, any composition that attempts to alter beliefs must deal with reasons, and the science of reasoning is logic. There is no need for the student of argumentation to make an exhaustive study of this science, for the good arguer is not obliged to know all the different ways the mind may work; he must, however, know how it should work in order to produce trustworthy results, and to the extent of teaching correct reasoning, argumentation includes logic. In the third place, a study of the emotions belongs to argumentation. According to the definition, argumentation aims both at presenting truth and compelling action. As action depends to a great extent upon man's emotions, the way to arouse his feelings and

Practical Argumentation - 1/43

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