Argumentation is the art of persuading others to think or act in a definite way. It includes all writing and speaking which is persuasive in form. The salesman persuading a prospective customer to buy goods, the student inducing his fellow-student to contribute to the funds of the athletic association, the business or professional man seeking to enlarge his business and usefulness, and the great orator or writer whose aim is to control the destiny of nations, all make use of the art of argumentation to attain their various objects.

These illustrations serve but to indicate the wide field of thought and action which this subject includes. Each instance in this broad field, which demands the use of the art of argumentation, is subject to the same general laws that govern the construction and presentation of formal arguments. Formal arguments may be either written or oral, but by far the greater benefit to the student of argumentation results from the delivery of oral arguments, for it is in this form that he will be most frequently called upon to use his skill.

Debating is the oral presentation of arguments under such conditions that each speaker may reply directly to the arguments of the opposing speaker. The debate is opened by the first speaker for the affirmative. He is then followed by the first speaker for the negative, each side speaking alternately until each man has presented his main speech.

After all the main speeches have been delivered, the negative opens the rebuttal. The speakers in rebuttal alternate negative and affirmative. This order gives the closing speech to the affirmative.

A proposition in argumentation is the formal statement of a subject for debate. It begins with the word “Resolved,” — followed by a statement of the subject matter of the controversy.

In formal debate it is always expressed; as for example, “Resolved, that the Federal Government should levy a progressive income tax.” In other forms of argumentation it might only be implied, as in the case of a salesman selling goods, the student soliciting subscriptions, the businessman arguing for consolidation, or the politician pleading for reform. Nevertheless, it is always advisable for the speaker to have a clear proposition as a basis on which to build his argument.

The proposition of the salesman might be, “Resolved, that James Fox ought to buy these Encyclopaedias;” for the business man, “Resolved, that all firms engaged in the manufacture of mufflers ought to consolidate;” and so on. This framing of a definite, clear-cut proposition will prevent wandering from the subject and give clearness, unity and relevancy to the argument.

In spite of the fact that argumentation is to be directed in accordance with scientific principles, and while it has an intimate relation with the science of logic, argumentation is primarily an art in which skill, tact, and diplomacy must be used to their fullest extent.

In this respect, argumentation is an art as truly as music, scupture, poetry or painting. The successful debater must be a master of his art if he hopes to convince and persuade real people to his way of thinking.