Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- Practical Argumentation - 2/43 -

passions is a fundamental principle of this art. Argumentation, then, which is commonly classified as the fourth division of rhetoric, consists of two fundamental elements. The part that is based upon logic and depends for its effectiveness upon pure reasoning is called _conviction_; the part that consists of an emotional appeal to the people addressed is called _persuasion_. If the only purpose of argumentation were to demonstrate the truth or falsity of a hypothesis, conviction alone would be sufficient. But its purpose is greater than this: it aims both (1) to convince men that certain ideas are true, and also (2) to persuade them to act in accordance with the truth presented. Neither conviction nor persuasion can with safety be omitted. An appeal to the intellect alone may demonstrate principles that cannot be refuted; it may prove beyond a doubt that certain theories are logical and right, and ought to be accepted. But this sort of argument is likely to leave the person addressed cold and unmoved and unwilling to give up his former ideas and practices. A purely intellectual discourse upon the evils resulting from a high tariff would scarcely cause a life-long protectionist to change his politics. If, however, some emotion such as duty, public spirit, or patriotism were aroused, the desired action might result. Again it frequently happens that before the arguer can make any appeal to the logical faculties of those he wishes to influence, he will first have to use persuasion in order to gain their attention and to arouse their interest either in himself or in his subject. On the other hand, persuasion alone is undoubtedly of even less value than conviction alone. A purely persuasive argument can never be trusted to produce lasting effects. As soon as the emotions have cooled, if no reasonable conviction remains to guide future thought and action, the plea that at first seemed so powerful is likely to be forgotten. The preacher whose sermons are all persuasion may, for a time, have many converts, but it will take something besides emotional ecstasy to keep them "in good and regular standing."

The proportion of conviction and persuasion to be used in any argumentative effort depends entirely upon the attending circumstances. If the readers or hearers possess a high degree of intelligence and education, conviction should predominate; for it is a generally accepted fact that the higher man rises in the scale of civilization, the less he is moved by emotion. A lawyer's argument before a judge contains little except reasoning; before a jury persuasion plays an important part. In the next place, the arguer must consider the attitude of those whom he would move. If they are favorably disposed, he may devote most of his time to reasoning; if they are hostile, he must use more persuasion. Also the correct proportion varies to some extent according to the amount of action desired. In an intercollegiate debate where little or no action is expected to result, persuasion may almost be neglected; but the political speech or editorial that urges men to follow its instructions usually contains at least as much persuasion as conviction.

The aspirant for distinction in argumentation should study and acquire certain characteristics common to all good arguers. First of all, he should strive to gain the ability to analyze. No satisfactory discussion can ever take place until the contestants have picked the question to pieces and discovered just exactly what it means. The man who does not analyze his subject is likely to seize upon ideas that are merely connected with it, and fail to find just what is involved by the question as a whole. The man skillful in argumentation, however, considers each word of the proposition in the light of its definition, and only after much thought and study decides that he has found the real meaning of the question. But the work of analysis does not end here; every bit of proof connected with the case must be analyzed that its value and its relation to the matter in hand may be determined. Many an argument is filled with what its author thought was proof, but what, upon close inspection, turns out to be mere assertion or fallacious reasoning. This error is surpassed only by the fault of bringing in as proof that which has no direct bearing at all upon the question at issue. Furthermore, the arguer must analyze not only his own side of the discussion but also the work of his opponent, so that with a full knowledge of what is strong and what is weak he may make his attack to the best advantage. Next to the ability to analyze, the most important qualification for an arguer to possess is the faculty of clearly presenting his case. New ideas, new truths are seldom readily accepted, and it is never safe to assume that the hearer or the reader of an argument will laboriously work his way through a mass of obscure reasoning. Absolute clearness of expression is essential. The method of arriving at a conclusion should be so plain that no one can avoid seeing what is proved and how it is proved. Lincoln's great success as a debater was due largely to his clearness of presentation. In the third place, the person who would control his fellow men must assume qualities of leadership. Remembering that men can be led, but seldom be driven, he must show his audience how he himself has reached certain conclusions, and then by leading them along the same paths of reasoning, bring them to the desired destination. If exhortation, counsel, and encouragement are required, they must be at his command. Moreover, a leader who wishes to attract followers must be earnest and enthusiastic. The least touch of insincerity or indifference will ruin all. To analyze ideas, to present them clearly, and as a leader to enforce them enthusiastically and sincerely are necessary qualities for every arguer.

A debater should possess additional attainments. He ought to be a ready thinker. The disputant who depends entirely upon a set speech is greatly handicapped. Since it is impossible to tell beforehand just what arguments an opponent will use and what line of attack he will pursue, the man who cannot mass his forces to meet the requirements of the minute is at great disadvantage. Of course all facts and ideas must be mastered beforehand, but unless one is to be the first speaker, he can most effectually determine during the progress of the debate just what arguments are preferable and what their arrangement should be. A debater must also have some ability as a speaker. He need not be graceful or especially fluent, though these accomplishments are of service, but he must be forceful. Not only his words, but also his manner must reveal the earnestness and enthusiasm he feels. His argument, clear, irrefutable, and to the point, should go forth in simple, burning words that enter into the hearts and understanding of his hearers.



The subject of an argument must always be a complete statement. The reason for this requirement lies in the fact that an argument can occur only when men have conflicting opinions about a certain thought, and try to prove the truth or falsity of this definite idea. Since a _term_--a word, phrase, or other combination of words not a complete sentence--suggests many ideas, but never stands for one particular idea, it is absurd as a subject to be argued. A debatable subject is always a _proposition_, a statement in which something is affirmed or denied. It would be impossible to uphold or attack the mere term, "government railroad supervision," for this expression carries with it no specific thought. It may suggest that government railroad supervision has been inadequate in the past; or that government supervision is at present unnecessary; or that the government is about to assume stricter supervision. The term affords no common ground on which the contestants would have to meet. If, however, some exact idea were expressed in such a statement as, "Further government railroad supervision is necessary for the best interests of the United States," an argument might well follow.

Although the subject of an argument must be a complete thought, it does not follow that this proposition is always explicitly stated or formulated in words. The same distinction between subject and title that exists in other kinds of writing is found also in argumentation; the subject is a statement of the matter about which the controversy centers; the title is the name by which the composition is known. Sometimes the subject serves as the title, and sometimes the subject is left to be discovered in the body of the work. The title of the speech delivered by Webster in the Senate, January 26, 1830, is "Webster's Reply to Hayne"; the subject, in the form of a resolution, is found close to the opening sentences:--

_Resolved_, That the Committee on Public Lands be instructed to inquire and report the quantity of public lands remaining unsold within each State and Territory, and whether it be expedient to limit for a certain period the sales of the public lands to such lands only as have heretofore been offered for sale, and are now subject to entry at the minimum price. And, also, whether the office of Surveyor- General, and some of the land offices, may not be abolished without detriment to the public interest; or whether it be expedient to adopt measures to hasten the sales and extend more rapidly the surveys of the public lands.

The thirteen resolutions offered by Burke form the subject of the argument known by the title, "Burke's Speech on Conciliation with America." A recent issue of _The Outlook_ contained an article entitled "Russian Despotism"; careful reading disclosed that the subject was this, "The Present Government of Russia has no Right to Exist." In legislative proceedings the subject of argument is found in the form of a bill, or a motion, or a resolution; in law courts it is embodied in statements called "pleadings," which "set forth with certainty and with truth the matters of fact or of law, the truth or falsity of which must be decided to decide the case." [Footnote: Laycock and Scales' Argumentation and Debate, page 14.] In college debate it is customary to frame the subject in the form of a resolution, and to use this resolution as the title. The generally accepted form is as follows:

_Resolved,_ That the United States army should be permanently enlarged.

Notice the use of italics, of punctuation marks, and of capital letters.

In all kinds of argumentation, whether the proposition to be discussed is clearly expressed or not, the arguer must keep his subject constantly in mind, that his efforts may all be directed toward a definite end in view--to convince and persuade his audience. In debate the speaker should plainly state the subject, and constantly hold it up to the attention of the audience. This procedure renders it impossible for an opponent to ignore the question and evade the real issue.

Only those who are debating for practice experience any difficulty in obtaining a subject. In the business world men argue because they are confronted with some perplexing problem, because some issue arises that demands discussion; but the student, generally speaking, chooses his own topic. Therefore a few suggestions in regard to the choice of a subject and the wording of a proposition are likely to be of considerable service to him.

The student should first select some general, popular topic of the day in which he is interested. He should, for several reasons, not the least of which is that he will thus gain considerable information that

Practical Argumentation - 2/43

Previous Page     Next Page

  1    2    3    4    5    6    7   10   20   30   40   43 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything