The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; the Art of Controversy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 105 pages of information about The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; the Art of Controversy.

Another plan is to beg the question in disguise by postulating what has to be proved, either (1) under another name; for instance, “good repute” instead of “honour”; “virtue” instead of “virginity,” etc.; or by using such convertible terms as “red-blooded animals” and “vertebrates”; or (2) by making a general assumption covering the particular point in dispute; for instance, maintaining the uncertainty of medicine by postulating the uncertainty of all human knowledge. (3) If, vice versa, two things follow one from the other, and one is to be proved, you may postulate the other. (4) If a general proposition is to be proved, you may get your opponent to admit every one of the particulars.  This is the converse of the second.[1]

[Footnote 1:  Idem, chap. 11.  The last chapter of this work contains some good rules for the practice of Dialectics.]


Should the disputation be conducted on somewhat strict and formal lines, and there be a desire to arrive at a very clear understanding, he who states the proposition and wants to prove it may proceed against his opponent by question, in order to show the truth of the statement from his admissions.  The erotematic, or Socratic, method was especially in use among the ancients; and this and some of the tricks following later on are akin to it.[1]

[Footnote 1:  They are all a free version of chap. 15 of Aristotle’s De Sophistici Elenchis.]

The plan is to ask a great many wide-reaching questions at once, so as to hide what you want to get admitted, and, on the other hand, quickly propound the argument resulting from the admissions; for those who are slow of understanding cannot follow accurately, and do not notice any mistakes or gaps there may be in the demonstration.


This trick consists in making your opponent angry; for when he is angry he is incapable of judging aright, and perceiving where his advantage lies.  You can make him angry by doing him repeated injustice, or practising some kind of chicanery, and being generally insolent.


Or you may put questions in an order different from that which the conclusion to be drawn from them requires, and transpose them, so as not to let him know at what you are aiming.  He can then take no precautions.  You may also use his answers for different or even opposite conclusions, according to their character.  This is akin to the trick of masking your procedure.


If you observe that your opponent designedly returns a negative answer to the questions which, for the sake of your proposition, you want him to answer in the affirmative, you must ask the converse of the proposition, as though it were that which you were anxious to see affirmed; or, at any rate, you may give him his choice of both, so that he may not perceive which of them you are asking him to affirm.

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The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; the Art of Controversy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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