Elements of Debating eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 138 pages of information about Elements of Debating.

The first speaker on the negative side may have much the same work to do.  If, however, he agrees with what the first speaker of the affirmative has said, he will save time merely by stating that fact and by summarizing in a sentence or two the steps leading to the issues.  If he does not agree with the interpretation which the affirmative has given to the question, it will be necessary for him to interpret the question himself.  He must make clear to the judges why his analysis is correct and that of his opponent faulty.

In presenting the forensic to the judges and audience forget, so far as possible, that you are debating.  You have a proposition in which you believe and which you want them to accept.  Your purpose is not to make your hearers say:  “How well he does it.”  You want them to say:  “He is right.”

Do not rant.  Speak clearly, that you may be understood; and with enough force that you may be heard, but in the same manner that you use in conversation.

Good gestures help.  Good gestures are those that come naturally in support of your ideas.  While practicing alone notice what gestures you put in involuntarily.  They are right.  Do not ape anyone in gesture.  Your oral work will be more effective without use of your hands than it will be with an ineffective use of them.  The most ineffective use is the making of motions that are so violent or extravagant that they attract the listeners’ attention to themselves and away from your ideas.  Remember that the expression of your face is most important of all gestures.  Earnest interest, pleasantness, fairness, and vigor expressed in the speaker’s face at the right times have done more to win debates than other gestures have ever accomplished.



  I. Refutation explained.

  II.  Refutation may be carried on: 
   1.  By overwhelming constructive argument.
   2.  By showing the weakness of opponents’ argument.

  III.  The time for refutation: 
   1.  Allotted time.
   2.  Special times.

  IV.  The right spirit in refutation.

Our work up to this point has dealt with what is called the constructive argument, i.e., the building up of the proof.  But to make the judges believe as you wish, you must not merely support your contentions; you must destroy the proof which your opponents are trying to construct.

As with the successful athletic team and the successful general, so with the successful debater, it is necessary, not only to attack, but also to repulse; not only to carry out the plan of your own side, but to meet and defeat the plan which the other side has developed.  In debating, this repulse, this destruction of the arguments of the opposition, is called refutation or rebuttal.

There are two principal ways in which the refutation of the opponent’s argument can be accomplished.  The first is to destroy it with your own constructive argument.  The second is to show that his argument, even though it is not destroyed by yours, is faulty in itself, and therefore useless.

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Elements of Debating from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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