Elements of Debating eBook

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

Successful debating we found to require three steps:  showing the hearers what belief is desired; showing them upon what issues belief depends; and supporting these issues with evidence until we have established proof.

We learned that the first of these steps could be taken by stating the question in the form of a definite, single proposition; defining the terms of this proposition; and then restating the whole matter.  We found that the second step required that the material that both sides admit, together with all other material that is really not pertinent to the question, should be first removed, and that the fundamentals of the question should be stated as the issues.  The last step, proving the issues, we found to involve two processes.  It was necessary, first, to find and select evidence, and, second, to arrange that evidence in logical order—­the brief-form.


The accompanying diagram is one that has helped many students to visualize more clearly what is attempted in a debate and to see how the debate may be made successful.

The doubt that the audience very reasonably has of the new idea proposed is bridged over by the proposition.  But this proposition will not be strong enough to cause the minds of the listeners to pass from unbelief to belief unless it is well supported.  The whole proposition is therefore placed upon one or two or three great capitals—­the issues, under each of which is a pillar of proof.  These pillars are composed of evidence of every sort.  The intelligent debater has, however, before placing a single piece of this evidence in the proof, tested it carefully.  He has tested it with the question:  “Will it help bring conviction to the audience; how will it affect my hearers?” Moreover, not satisfied with this scrupulous choice of evidence, he has been careful not to pile it in regardless of position, but to place each piece in the position where it will lend the strongest support to the entire structure.

When this has been done, the bridge of proof is built solidly upon the experience of the hearers, and, almost without their knowledge, their minds have gone from unbelief to belief.


[Footnote 1:  Baker, Principles of Argumentation.]

[Footnote 2:  Jevons, Primer of Logic.]

[Footnote 3:  For a thorough discussion of the principle of reference to experience, see Arthur E. Phillips, Effective Speaking, chap. iii.]

[Footnote 4:  Edmund Burke, On Conciliation with the Colonies.]





Practically every subject that is interesting enough to be a good subject for debate has been written about by other people.  Every good library contains the books on the following list, and with a little experience the student can handle them easily.  A general treatment of every important subject can be found in any of the following encyclopedias:  Americana, New International, Twentieth Century, Britannica.

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Elements of Debating from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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