Throughout I have tried to lay stress on the making of arguments, not as an end in themselves, and to fit certain more or loss arbitrary formulas, but as the practical kind of appeal that every young man is already making to his fellows on matters that interest him, and that he will make more and more in earnest as he gets out into the world. The tendency of some of the books to treat argumentation, especially in the form of debating, as a new variety of sport, with rules as elaborate and technical as those of football, turns away from the subject a good many young men to whom the training in itself would be highly valuable. The future of the subject will be closely dependent on the success of teachers in keeping it flexible and in intimate touch with real affairs. I have made some suggestions looking towards this end in Appendix II.
My obligations to earlier workers in the field will be obvious to all who know the subject. In especial, I, like all other writers on the subject, have built on foundations laid by Professor George Pierce Baker, of Harvard University.
For permission to use the articles from The Outlook I am indebted to the courtesy of the editors of that journal; for the article on “The Transmission of Yellow Fever by Mosquitoes,” to the kindness of General Sternberg, and of the editor of The Popular Science Monthly.
THE MAKING OF ARGUMENTS
WHAT WE ARGUE ABOUT, AND WHY
1. What Argument is. When we argue we write or speak with an active purpose of making other people take our view of a case; that is the only essential difference between argument and other modes of writing. Between exposition and argument there is no certain line. In Professor Lamont’s excellent little book, “Specimens of Exposition,” there are two examples which might be used in this book as examples of argument; in one of them, Huxley’s essay on “The Physical Basis of Life,” Huxley himself toward the end uses the words, “as I have endeavored to prove to you”; and Matthew Arnold’s essay on “Wordsworth” is an elaborate effort to prove that Wordsworth is the greatest English poet after Shakespeare and Milton. Or, to take quite different examples, in any question of law where judges of the court disagree, as in the Income Tax Case, or in the Insular cases which decided the status of Porto Rico and the Philippines, both the majority opinion and the dissenting opinions of the judges are argumentative in form; though the majority opinion, at any rate, is in theory an exposition of the law. The real difference between argument and exposition lies in the difference of attitude toward the subject in hand: when we are explaining we tacitly assume that there is only one view to be taken of the subject; when we argue we recognize that other people look on it differently. And the differences in form are only those which are necessary to throw the critical points of an argument into high relief and to warm the feelings of the readers.