The Making of Arguments eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about The Making of Arguments.


1.  Bring to class editorials from different newspapers on the same local subject, and point out differences of attitude which they assume in the audiences they address.

2.  Suggest three different possible audiences for your argument, and show what differences you would make in your argument in addressing each of them.

16.  The Burden of Proof.  The principle which underlies the responsibility for the burden of proof may be summed up in the adage of the common law, He who asserts must prove.

At the law this principle has been elaborated into a large and abstruse subject; in ordinary arguments where there is no judge to make subtle discriminations, you must interpret it in the broadest way.  The average man lacks both the interest and the capacity for making keen distinctions; and when you are writing for him you would make a mistake if you were to stickle for fine points concerning the burden of proof.

In general, the principle as it bears on the arguments of everyday life implies that any argument in favor of a change shall accept the burden of proof.  This application of the principle is illustrated in the following extract from an editorial article in The Outlook some years ago, on a proposed change in the law of New York concerning the safeguards of vivisection.

* * * * *

The real question is not as to the merits of vivisection, but as to the proper safeguards with which the law should surround it.

At present the law of New York state applies to experiments upon animals the same principle that it applies to surgical operations upon men, women, and children.  It does not attempt to prescribe the conditions under which either experiments or operations should be conducted; but it does prescribe the standards of fitness which every person who may lawfully engage in surgery and which every person who may lawfully engage in animal experimentation must meet.  It penalizes with fine or imprisonment or both the unjustifiable injuring, mutilating, or killing of animals; and it confines to regularly incorporated medical colleges and universities of the state the authority under which animal experimentation may be conducted.

The burden of proof rests upon those who would have the state abandon this principle and substitute for it the principle of prescribing the conditions of scientific investigation.  It rests upon them to prove, in the first place, that the present law is inadequate.  It is not sufficient for them to produce lawyers who give opinions that the law is not efficient.  There are lawyers of the highest standing in the state who declare that it is efficient.  The only adequate mode of proof would be by the prosecution of an actual abuse.  So far as we have been able to learn, only one authentic case of alleged unjustifiable experimentation has been brought forward by the supporters of the bills.  This is certainly not proof that the present law is inadequate.

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The Making of Arguments from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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