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of as a persuasion. Belief, conviction, and persuasion, therefore, are closely synonymous terms.
Disbelief, when based either upon reason or upon lack of faith, may be spoken of as doubt. Disbelief and doubt, therefore, in contrast with belief, conviction, and persuasion, are also closely synonymous terms.
The Twofold Process of Conviction and Persuasion. For the purpose of influencing belief, debate employs the twofold process of conviction and persuasion. These two terms are used to designate, not only a state of mind synonymous with belief, but also two of the processes by which belief is created or destroyed.
Conviction is a process that creates belief or disbelief through an appeal to reason; and persuasion is a process that creates belief or disbelief through an appeal to the emotions. Conviction makes one see the truth; persuasion makes one feel it. Conviction makes the truth clear; persuasion makes it interesting. Conviction drives one to accept the truth; persuasion leads one to embrace it.
Each of these two processes represents a powerful means of influencing others in their beliefs. Neither can safely be ignored; and each should ordinarily be employed to supplement the other.
An example of the difference between these two processes may be found in the different types of appeal employed by a salesman. If he sells his goods by demonstrating their superior quality, he uses conviction; but if he sells his goods by appealing to the pity, sympathy, pride, shame, goodwill, or animosity of his customers, he then uses persuasion.
In some instances one of these methods alone might prove effective; but usually a judicious mixture of the two is required.
Proof the Most Fundamental Process in Debate. - Conviction and persuasion are both important processes in debate, but both rely upon the more fundamental process known as proof.
Proof is a term used to designate either the process or the materials by which truth is established. The materials of proof are evidence and argument; and the process of proof consists in the presentation of all the evidence and argument necessary to establish truth.
The Relation of Proof to Conviction and Persuasion. By means of the combined processes of proof, conviction, and persuasion, debate achieves its purpose of influencing others to accept or reject belief.
Proof establishes truth; and conviction and persuasion together give it certainty and assurance.
Proof is entirely impersonal; whereas, conviction and persuasion are altogether personal. Proof is a process that establishes truth without regard to its being understood or appreciated; whereas, conviction and persuasion are processes that make proof intelligible and acceptable.
Conviction is a process, therefore, that makes clear the validity of proof; and persuasion is a process that creates interest in proof and provides a motive for its acceptance.
Outline of the Study of Debate. If the student of debate is to acquire a thorough mastery of his subject, he must become familiar with all the theory involved in understanding the nature of proof, the proper methods of selecting and arranging proof, and the principles of conviction and persuasion that govern the effective presentation of proof.
A mere knowledge of theory in connection with proof, however, is not all that is necessary; for the debater is powerless who cannot put his theory into practice.
Throughout the study of this subject, therefore, a debater must constantly seek to combine theory with practice, in order that practice may make theory more intelligible, and in order that theory may make practice more profitable.
With the ideal of combining theory and practice from the very outset in debate, the first part of this book, under the title Beginning Principles, contains four chapters, on the nature of debate, choosing the subject, assembling the proof, and making the speech, which are intended to make the student able to begin at once the practice of debate with some firm grasp of its most elementary principles.
The second part of the book under the title, Elements of Proof, contains four chapters on the subjects of evidence, argument, fallacy, and refutation; and is intended to make the student familiar with all the instruments of proof that he must necessarily use in debate.
The third part of the book, under the title, Building the Case, contains four chapters, on defining the terms, surveying the proof, finding the issues, and drawing the brief; and is intended to make the student familiar with all the processes necessary in building up a case for presentation in debate.
The fourth part of the book, under the title Making the Plea, contains also four chapters, on the subjects of conviction, persuasion, speech-composition, and strategy; and is intended to make the student able to present his case in debate in the most effective manner for accomplishing the purpose of influencing others to accept or reject belief.
False and True Conceptions in Regard to the Study of Debate. As a student approaches the subject of debate, he must disabuse his mind of three common and very false conceptions of the subject. He must, for example, put
out of his mind the discouraging thought that debaters are only born and not made; for this theory has been disproved by a countless number of instances in which men of little promise have become effective debaters through long training and rigid discipline. He must put out of his mind, also, the thought that successful debating is a product of mere horse-sense and momentary inspiration; for the whole long history of debate, as it has been practiced from the earliest times, is literally strewn with the wrecks and failures of those who have adopted this theory. And, finally, the debater must put out of his mind the thought that, with the knowledge of one or two principles, and with a little superficial coaching by his friends, he may become an experienced debater, who is master of his subject and who is ready to meet any emergency. All these conceptions of the art of debate are utterly false, and only lead to disappointment and failure.
What the debater should carry in mind constantly throughout his study is that the art of debate includes many difficult and technical theories that he must master; and that, in order to acquire proficiency in their use, he must enter upon a long period of training, involving the most rigid self-discipline, with its keynote expressed in the words of Demosthenes: "Practice! Practice! Practice!"
CHOOSING THE SUBJECT1
Importance of Choosing Wisely a Subject of Debate. — None of the problems arising in debate is more important than the choice of a proper subject; for, if the subject of debate is chosen unwisely, it is sure to occasion much difficulty and serious misunderstanding. In some cases, for example, the unwise choice of a subject shifts debate away from the very points intended for discussion; in others, it opens the way to shallow quibbling or petty strategy; and in still others, it makes debate itself impossible. No pains should be spared, therefore, by the student of this art in choosing wisely proper subjects for debate.
Distinction between Subjects of Debate and Other Subjects. A subject of debate is the subject of an argumentative form of discourse; and as such it differs materially from the type of subject commonly employed in other forms of discourse. Description, Narration, and Exposition, for example, are non-argumentative forms of discourse, and may employ mere terms as their subjects; but debate, since it involves the use of argumentative discourse, must employ as its subject a proposition rather than a mere term.
Definition of the Proposition. The proposition as subject of debate is the main statement of alleged truth to be proved or disproved by the parties in controversy.
1 For lesson assignments on Choosing the Subject, see Appendix A. 8