Reference > Quotations > S. Austin Allibone, comp. > Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay
S. Austin Allibone, comp.  Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay.  1880.
  I have sometimes amused myself with considering the several methods of managing a debate which have obtained in the world.  1
  The first races of mankind used to dispute, as our ordinary people do now-a-days, in a kind of wild logic, uncultivated by rules of art.  2
  Socrates introduced a catechetical method of arguing. He would ask his adversary question upon question, till he had convinced him out of his own mouth that his opinions were wrong. This way of debating drives an enemy up into a corner, seizes all the passes through which he can make an escape, and forces him to surrender at discretion.  3
  Aristotle changed this method of attack, and invented a great variety of little weapons, called syllogisms. As in the Socratic way of dispute you agree to everything your opponent advances, in the Aristotelic you are still denying and contradicting some part or other of what he says. Socrates conquers you by stratagem, Aristotle by force. The one takes the town by sap, the other sword in hand.
Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 239.    
  When arguments press equally in matters indifferent, the safest method is to give up ourselves to neither.
Joseph Addison.    
  Insignificant cavils may be started against everything that is not capable of mathematical demonstration.
Joseph Addison.    
  The terms are loose and undefined; and, what less becomes a fair reasoner, he puts wrong and invidious names on everything to colour a false way of arguing.
Joseph Addison.    
  It is not to be expected that every one should guard his understanding from being imposed on by the sophistry which creeps into most of the books of argument.
John Locke.    
  It is good in discourse to vary and intermingle speech of the present occasion with arguments; for it is a dull thing to tire and jade anything too far.
Francis Bacon.    
  Some in their discourse desire rather commendation of wit in being able to hold all arguments, than of judgment in discerning what is true.
Francis Bacon.    
  Whereas men have many reasons to persuade, to use them all at once weakeneth them. For it argueth a neediness in every one of the reasons, as if one did not trust to any of them, but fled from one to another.
Francis Bacon.    
  Avoid disputes as much as possible. In order to appear easy and well-bred in conversation, you may assure yourself that it requires more wit, as well as more good humour, to improve than to contradict the notions of another: but if you are at any time obliged to enter on an argument, give your reasons with the utmost coolness and modesty, two things which scarce ever fail of making an impression on the hearers. Besides, if you are neither dogmatical, nor show either by your actions or words that you are full of yourself, all will the more heartily rejoice at your victory. Nay, should you be pinched in your argument, you may make your retreat with a very good grace. You were never positive, and are now glad to be better informed. This has made some approve the Socratic way of reasoning, where, while you scarce affirm anything, you can hardly be caught in an absurdity; and though possibly you are endeavouring to bring over another to your opinion, which is firmly fixed, you seem only to desire information from him.
Eustace Budgell: Spectator, No. 197.    
  Lastly, if you propose to yourself the true end of argument, which is information, it may be a seasonable check to your passion; for if you search purely after truth, it will be almost indifferent to you where you find it. I cannot in this place omit an observation which I have often made, namely, That nothing procures a man more esteem and less envy from the whole company, than if he chooses the part of moderator, without engaging directly on either side in a dispute.
Eustace Budgell: Spectator, No. 197.    
  Passionate expressions and vehement assertions are no arguments, unless it be of the weakness of the cause that is defended by them, or of the man that defends it.
William Chillingworth.    
  He could not debate anything without some commotion, even when the argument was not of moment.
Earl of Clarendon.    
  When you have nothing to say, say nothing: a weak defence strengthens your opponent, and silence is less injurious than a weak reply.
Charles Caleb Colton: Lacon.    
  As the physical powers are scarcely ever exerted to their utmost extent but in the ardour of combat, so intellectual acumen has been displayed to the most advantage and to the most effect in the contests of argument. The mind of a controversialist, warmed and agitated, is turned to all quarters, and leaves none of its resources unemployed in the invention of arguments, tries every weapon, and explores the hidden recesses of a subject with an intense vigilance, and an ardour which it is next to impossible in a calmer state of mind to command.
Robert Hall: Preface to Hall’s Help to Zion’s Travellers.    
  A metaphysical argument might have been printed from the mouth of Sir J. Mackintosh, unaltered and complete. That arrangement of the parts of an abstruse subject which to others would be a laborious art was to him a natural suggestion and pleasurable exercise. In no instance have I seen an equal power of distributing methodically a long train of argument, adhering to his scheme, and completing it in all its parts.
Sir Henry Holland: Mackintosh’s Life.    
  They that are more fervent to dispute be not always the most able to determine.
Richard Hooker.    
  Our endeavour is not so much to overthrow them with whom we contend, as to yield them just and reasonable causes of those things which, for want of due consideration heretofore, they misconceived.
Richard Hooker.    
  As for probabilities, what thing was there ever set down so agreeable with sound reason but some probable show against it might be made?
Richard Hooker.    
  The dexterous management of terms, and being able to fend and prove with them, passes for a great part of learning; but it is learning distinct from knowledge.
John Locke.    
  In arguing, the opponent uses comprehensive and equivocal terms, to involve his adversary in the doubtfulness of his expression, and therefore the answer on his side makes it his play to distinguish as much as he can.
John Locke.    
  I do not see how they can argue with any one without setting down strict boundaries.
John Locke.    
  It carries too great an imputation of ignorance, or folly, to quit and renounce former tenets upon the offer of an argument which cannot immediately be answered.
John Locke.    
  Men of fair minds, and not given up to the overweening of self-flattery, are frequently guilty of it; and in many cases one with amazement hears the arguings, and is astonished at the obstinacy, of a worthy man who yields not to the evidence of reason.
John Locke.    
  The multiplying variety of arguments, especially frivolous ones, is not only lost labour, but cumbers the memory to no purpose.
John Locke.    
  Hunting after arguments to make good one side of a question, and wholly to refuse those which favour the other, is so far from giving truth its due value, that it wholly debases it.
John Locke.    
  An ill argument introduced with deference will procure more credit than the profoundest science with a rough, insolent, and noisy management.
John Locke.    
  The fair way of conducting a dispute is to exhibit, one by one, the arguments of your opponent, and, with each argument, the precise and specific answer you are able to make to it.
William Paley.    
  He cannot consider the strength, poise the weight, and discern the evidence of the clearest argumentations where they would conclude against his desires.
Robert South.    
  If your arguments be rational, offer them in as moving a manner as the nature of the subject will admit; but beware of letting the pathetic part swallow up the rational.
Jonathan Swift.    
  The skilful disputant well knows that he never has his enemy at more advantage than when, by allowing the premises, he shows him arguing wrong from his own principles.
Bishop William Warburton.    
  While we are arguing with others, in order to convince them, how graceful a thing is it, when we have the power of the argument on our own side, to keep ourselves from insult and triumph! how engaging a behaviour toward our opponent, when we seem to part as though we were equal in the debate, while it is evident to all the company that the truth lies wholly on our side!  34
  Yet I will own there are seasons when the obstinate and the assuming disputant should be made to feel the force of an argument by displaying it in its victorious and triumphant colours. But this is seldom to be practised so as to insult the opposite party, except in cases where they have shown a haughty and insufferable insolence. Some persons perhaps can hardly be taught humility without being severely humbled; and yet where there is need of this chastisement I had rather any other hand should be employed in it than mine.
Dr. Isaac Watts: Christian Morality.    
  Academical disputation gives vigour and briskness to the mind thus exercised, and relieves the languor of private study and meditation.
Dr. Isaac Watts.    
  By putting every argument, on one side and the other, into the balance, we must form a judgment which side preponderates.
Dr. Isaac Watts.    
  We should dwell upon the arguments, and impress the motives of persuasion upon our own hearts, till we feel the force of them.
Dr. Isaac Watts.    
  Let not the proof of any position depend on the positions that follow, but always on those which precede.
Dr. Isaac Watts.    
  A disputant, when he finds that his adversary is too hard for him, with slyness turns the discourse.
Dr. Isaac Watts.    
  Affect not little shifts and subterfuges to avoid the force of an argument.
Dr. Isaac Watts.    
  If the opponent sees victory to incline to his side, let him show the force of his argument, without too importunate and petulant demands of an answer.
Dr. Isaac Watts.    
  There are persons whom to attempt to convince by even the strongest reasons, and most cogent arguments, is like King Lear putting a letter before a man without eyes, and saying, “Mark but the penning of it!” to which he answers, “Were all the letters suns, I could not see one.” But it may be well worth while sometimes to write to such a person much that is not likely to influence him at all, if you have an opportunity of showing it to others, as a proof that he ought to have been convinced by it.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacon’s Essay, Of Negotiating.    

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