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- Practical Argumentation - 20/43 -

later, on August 28th, the Erie Railroad, which had been paying 4 per cent ... announced that it would pay no cash dividend this time, but would issue to the amount of the usual 4 per cent. dividend, what it called dividend warrants, which were practically notes at 4 per cent. redeemable in cash in 1907.

It was natural that this action regarding dividends should have awakened much uneasiness.... To predict a similar cutting of dividends by other railway companies would, however, be unwarranted. The case of the Southern Railway and the Erie was peculiar. Each had been classed among the financially weak railways of the country. Both were reorganized from absolute railway wrecks, and in each the new scheme of capitalization was proposed to the markets at a time when recovery from the depression of 1893 had not made such progress as it had achieved when the greater companies, like the Union Pacific, were reorganized. The result was that, with both these railways, provisions of working capital and adjustment of liabilities to the possible needs of an active industrial future were inadequately made. [Footnote: Alexander D. Noyes, The Forum, October-December, 1907, p.198.]

An excellent illustration of how to refute argument by generalization is found in the following quotation. It has been said that since England finds free trade beneficial, the United States should adopt the same policy. Mr. Reed, a leading advocate of protection, points out the weakness of this argument.

According to the usual story that is told, England had been engaged with a long and vain struggle with the demon of protection, and had been year after year sinking farther into the depths, until at a moment when she was in her distress and saddest plight, her manufacturing system broke down, "protection, having destroyed home trade by reducing," as Mr. Atkinson says, "the entire population to beggary, destitution, and want." Mr. Cobden and his friends providentially appeared, and after a hard struggle established a principle for all time and for all the world, and straightway England enjoyed the sum of human happiness. Hence all good nations should do as England has done and be happy ever after.

Suppose England, instead of being a little island in the sea, had been the half of a great continent full of raw material, capable of an internal commerce which would rival the commerce of all the rest of the world.

Suppose every year new millions were flocking to her shores, and every one of those new millions in a few years, as soon as they tasted the delights of a broader life, would become as great a consumer as any one of her own people.

Suppose that these millions, and the 70,000,000 already gathered under the folds of her flag, were every year demanding and receiving a higher wage and therefore broadening her market as fast as her machinery could furnish production. Suppose she had produced cheap food beyond all her wants, and that her laborers spent so much money that whether wheat was sixty cents a bushel or twice that sum hardly entered the thoughts of one of them except when some democratic tariff bill was paralyzing his business.

Suppose that she was not only but a cannon shot from France, but that every country in Europe had been brought as near to her as Baltimore is to Washington--for that is what cheap ocean freights mean between us and European producers. Suppose all those countries had her machinery, her skilled workmen, her industrial system, and labor forty per cent. cheaper. Suppose under that state of facts, with all her manufactures proclaiming against it, frantic in their disapproval, England had been called upon by Cobden to make the plunge into free trade, would she have done it? Not if Cobden had been backed by the angelic host. History gives England credit for great sense. [Footnote: Thomas B. Reed, Speech in House of Representatives, Feb. 1, 1904.]

ARGUMENT FROM ANALOGY. When two instances of objects which are _unlike in themselves_, but which _perform similar functions or have similar relations_, are compared for the sake of showing that what is true in one case is true in the other, the process is called _argument from analogy_. The following quotation is a good illustration of this kind of argument:--

"Mr. Pinchot compared our present consumption of wood to the case of a man in an open boat at sea, cut adrift from some shipwreck and with but a few days' supply of water on board. He drinks all the water the first day, simply because he is thirsty, though he knows that the water will not last long. The American people know that their wood supply will last but a few decades. Yet they shut their eyes to the facts."

Water and wood are not alike in themselves; they cannot be directly compared, but they are alike in the relations they bear to other circumstances.

When President Lincoln refused to change generals at a certain time during the Civil War, saying that it was not wise to "swap horses while crossing a stream," he reasoned from analogy. Since the horse in taking its master across the stream and the general in conducting a campaign are totally unlike in themselves but have similar relations, the argument is from analogy and not from generalization.

It is easy to see that such reasoning never constitutes indubitable proof. If argument from generalization, where the objects compared differ from each other in only a few respects, is weak, plainly, argument from analogy is much weaker, since the objects are alike merely in the relations they bear.

Though argument from analogy does not constitute proof, yet it is often valuable as a means of illustration. Truths frequently need illumination more than verification, and in such cases this sort of comparison may be very useful. Many proverbs are condensed arguments from analogy, their strength depending upon the similarity between the known case and the case in hand. It is not hard to find the analogy in these expressions: "Lightning never strikes twice in the same place"; "Don't count your chickens before they are hatched"; "A fool and his money are soon parted."

The student who has carefully read this chapter up to this point should have a fairly clear idea of the nature of proof; he should know that proof consists of evidence and reasoning; he should know the tests for each of these; and he should be able to distinguish between strong and weak arguments. The next step for him to take will be to apply these instructions in generating proof for any statement that he wishes to establish.

A common fault in argumentation is the failure to support important points with sufficient proof. One or two points well established will go farther toward inducing belief in a proposition than a dozen points that are but weakly substantiated. A statement should be proved not only by inductive reasoning, but, if possible, by deductive. If one uses argument from antecedent probability in establishing a statement, he should not rest content with this one method of proof, but he should try also to use argument from sign, and argument from example, and, whenever he can, he should quote authority.

Notice that in the following outline three kinds of proof are used. The amount of proof here given is by no means sufficient to establish the truth of the proposition being upheld; the outline, however, does illustrate the proper method of building up the proof of a proposition.

The present condition of the United States Senate is deplorable.


I. The present method of electing Senators is ample cause for such a condition, since

A. Senators are not responsible to any one, as

1. They are not responsible to the people, for

a. The people do not elect them.

2. They are not responsible to the legislature, for

a. The legislature changes inside of six years.


II. There is ample evidence to prove that the condition is deplorable.

A. States are often unrepresented in the Senate. (Haynes' _Election of Senators_, page 158.)

B. Many Senators have fallen into disrepute, for

1. One out of every ten members of the Fifty-eighth Congress had been before the courts on criminal charges. (Harper's Weekly, Vol. XLIV, page 113.)

C. Many Senators have engaged in fist fights on the floor of the Senate Chamber.


III. Prominent men testify to its deplorable condition. (A. M. Low, North American Review, Vol. CLXXIV, page 231; D. G. Phillips, Cosmopolitan, Vol. XL, page 487.)


Though it has been stated in a previous chapter that the persuasive portions of an argument should be found for the most part in the introduction and the conclusion, still persuasion in the discussion is extremely important. It is true that the real work of the discussion is to prove the proposition; but if conviction alone be used, there is great danger, in most cases, that the arguer will weary his audience, lose their attention, and thus fail to drive home the ideas that he wishes them to adopt. Since everything depends upon how the arguer has already treated his subject, and how it has been received by the audience, specific directions for persuasion in the discussion cannot possibly be given. Suggestions in regard to this matter must be even more abstract and general than were the directions for persuasion in the introduction.

To begin with, persuasion in the discussion should usually be of a supplementary nature. Unless the arguer has won the attention and, to some extent at least, the good will of his audience before he commences upon his proof, he may as well confess failure and proceed no farther. If, however, the persuasiveness of his introduction has accomplished the purpose for which it exists, he may introduce his proof without hesitation, taking care all the time to interweave enough persuasion to maintain the favorable impression that he has

Practical Argumentation - 20/43

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