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Practical Argumentation   By:

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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... Continue reading book >>

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