DEFINITION AND IMPORTANCE OF ARGUMENTATION
Argumentation is the art of persuading others to think or act in a definite way. It includes all writing and speaking which is persuasive in form. The salesman persuading a prospective customer to buy goods, the student inducing his fellow-student to contribute to the funds of the athletic association, the business or professional man seeking to enlarge his business and usefulness, and the great orator or writer whose aim is to control the destiny of nations, all make use of the art of argumentation to attain their various objects. These illustrations serve but to indicate the wide field of thought and action which this subject includes. Each instance in this broad field, which demands the use of the art of argumentation, is subject to the same general laws that govern the construction and presentation of formal arguments. Formal arguments may be either written or oral, but by far the greater benefit to the student of argumentation results from the delivery of oral arguments, for it is in this form that he will be most frequently railed upon to use his skill.
Debating is the oral presentation of arguments under such conditions that each speaker may reply directly to the arguments of the opposing speaker. The debate is opened by the first speaker for the affirmative. He is then followed by the first speaker for the negative, each side speaking alternately until each man has presented his main speech. After all the main speeches have been delivered the negative opens the rebuttal. The speakers in rebuttal alternate negative and affirmative. This order gives the closing speech to the affirmative. Practice in this kind of formal debate should go hand in hand with the study of the text after the first five chapters have been mastered. The first arguments, however, should be individual arguments written out for the purpose of enabling the student to apply the rules regarding their form and development
A proposition in argumentation is the formal statement of a subject for debate. It begins with the word “Resolved,” - followed by the statement of the subject matter of the controversy, and worded in accordance with the rules laid down in the next chapter. In formal debate it is always expressed; as for example, “Resolved, that the Federal Government should levy a progressive income tax.” In other forms of argumentation it may be only implied, as in the case of the salesman selling goods, the student soliciting subscriptions, the business man arguing for consolidation, or the politician pleading for reform. Nevertheless, it is always advisable for the speaker or writer to have clearly in mind a definite proposition as a basis upon which to build his argument. The proposition for the salesman might be, “Resolved, that James Fox ought to buy a piano;” for the student solicitor, “Resolved, that George Clark ought to give ten dollars to the athletic fund;” for the business man, “Resolved, that all firms engaged in the manufacture of matches should consolidate;” and for the politician, “Resolved, that the tariff 5schedule on necessaries should be lowered.” This framing of a definite, clear-cut proposition will prevent wandering from the subject and give to the argument the qualities of clearness, unity, and relevancy.
Referring to the definition with which this chapter opened the student should note that it defines argumentation as an art. While it is true that argumentation must be directed in accordance with scientific principles, and while it is also true that it has an intimate relation with the science of logic, yet it is primarily an art in which skill, tact, diplomacy, and the finer sensibilities must be utilized to their fullest extent. In this respect argumentation is an art as truly as music, sculpture, poetry, or painting. The successful debater must be a master of this art if he hopes to convince and persuade real men to his way of thinking and thus to direct their action.
II. THE OBJECT OF ARGUMENTATION
The object of argumentation is not only to induce others to accept our opinions and beliefs in regard to any disputed matter, but to induce them to act in accordance with our opinions and beliefs. The end of argumentation is action. The form which this action is to take depends upon the nature of the disputed matter. It may be only an action of the mind resulting in a definite belief which will exert an influence in the world for good or evil. It may be the desire of the one who argues to persuade his hearers to advocate his opinions and beliefs and thus spread his doctrines to many other individuals. It may be that some more decided physical action is desired, such as the casting of a vote, or the purchase of a certain article or commodity. It may be the taking up of arms against a state, race, or nation, or the pursuit of a definite line of conduct throughout the remainder of the life of the individual addressed. These and many other phases of action may be the objects of the debater.
III. EDUCATIONAL IMPORTANCE OF ARGUMENTATION
From the standpoint of mental discipline no study offers more practical training than does argumentation. It cultivates that command of feeling and concentration of thought which keeps the mind healthily active. The value of this kind of mental exercise cannot be overestimated. Especially is it valuable when the arguments are presented in the form of a debate, in which the speaker is assigned to defend a definite position and must reply to attacks made on that position. Such work brings forth the best powers of mind possessed by the student. It cultivates quickness of thought, and the ability to meet men on their own ground and conduct a successful encounter on the battlefield of ideas.
Another faculty of mind which debating develops is tact in the selection and presentation of material. Since the object of debate is action, it is not enough that the speaker show his position to be the correct one. He must do more than this; he must make the hearer desire to act in accordance with that position. Otherwise the speaker will be in the same position as the savage who induces his fellows to conform to his ideas by the use of a club, - the moment the influence of the club is removed the subject immediately reverts to his former habits of thought and action. If you convince a man that he is wrong by the mere force of argument, he may be unable to answer your argument but he will feel like a man who has been whipped in a physical encounter - though technically defeated he still holds to his former opinions. There is much truth in the old saying that, “He who is convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Therefore, the debater must do more than merely convince his hearer; he must persuade him. He must appeal to the reason, it is true, but he must also appeal to the emotions in such a way as to persuade his hearer to take some definite action in regard to the subject of dispute. Thus there are two things which the debater must attempt - conviction and persuasion. If he convinces his hearer without persuading him, no action is likely to follow. If he persuades his hearer by appealing to his emotions, the effect of his efforts will be short lived. Therefore, the debater must train himself to persuade his hearer to act in accordance with his wishes as well as to find reasons for such action and give them.
Finally, debating cultivates the ability to use clear and forcible language. Practice of this kind gives the student a wealth of expression and a command of language which is not otherwise possible. The obligation to reply directly to one’s opponents makes it necessary for the student to have such command of his material that he can make it apply directly to the arguments he has just heard.
The educational value of debating is greater than that of any other form of oral or written composition because it cultivates: (1) The command of feeling and concentration of thought which keep the mind healthily active, (2) The ability to state a clear-cut proposition, and to analyze it keenly by sifting the essential from the trivial, thus revealing the real point at issue, (3) The ability to find reasons and give them, (4) The power to state facts and conditions with that tact and diplomacy which success demands, (5) The power to persuade as well as convince, (6) The power of clear and forcible expression. Certainly any subject which tends to develop these qualities ought to receive the most careful attention of the student.
IV. PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF ARGUMENTATION
From the practical standpoint no study offers better preparation for the everyday affairs of life than does argumentation and debate. Success in life is largely a matter of reducing every situation to a definite, clear-cut proposition, analyzing that proposition or picking out the main points at issue, and then directing one’s efforts to the solution of the problem thus revealed. To be more concrete: One young man accepts the first situation which is brought to his notice when he graduates, and stays in a mediocre position for years; another young man thinks carefully over the matter, picks out a place where he is most likely to succeed, and secures rapid promotion. Instances might be multiplied indefinitely to show the practical value of argumentative training. The man who is an expert in the use of argument holds the master key to success in all lines. It is an invaluable asset to every one who has to deal with practical affairs. It matters not whether you are to address one individual or a thousand - whether you wish to persuade to a certain course of action, your employer, a committee, a board of directors, a town council, the senate of the United States, or an auditorium full of people, knowledge of the use and application of the rules of argumentation, and good training in the art of debate is a most valuable asset. The business world, the professional world, and the political world eagerly welcome the man who can think and who can effectively present his thoughts. In every business, in every profession, and in every department of government the skilled debater becomes the leader of men.