Headings for Persuasive Argument

Persuasion is an exhortation to some purpose or speech or action, while dissuasion is the prevention of some purpose or speech or action.

Such being the definition of these words, a person who persuades must indicate that those things to which he/she exhorts are just, lawful, expedient, honourable, pleasant, and easy of accomplishment. Having said that, when one is exhorting to that which is difficult, he/she must indicate that it is practicable and that its execution is necessary. However, a person who dissuades, by pursuing the opposite course, must exert a hindering influence, indicating that the proposed action is neither just nor lawful nor expedient nor honourable nor pleasant nor practicable; if he/she cannot do that, he/she must urge that it is toilsome and unnecessary.

All actions can have both these sets of attributes applied to them, so that a man who can urge neither of these two sets of fundamental qualities is at a loss for anything to say. It is for these qualities therefore that those who seek to persuade or dissuade must look. I will now attempt to define them one by one and show whence we shall supply them for our discourses.

  1. Just — implies that, that which is just is the unwritten custom of all or the majority of men which draws a distinction between what is honourable and what is base. We may take as examples the honouring of parents, doing good to one’s friends, and returning good to one’s benefactors. These and similar duties are not enjoined upon mankind by written laws, but they are observed by unwritten custom and universal practice. So much for just actions.
  2. Law — is a common agreement made by the community which ordains in writing how the citizens ought to act under every kind of circumstance.
  3. Expediency — is the safeguarding of existing advantages, or the acquisition of those not already possessed, or the riddance of existing disadvantages, or the prevention of harm which threatens to occur. For individuals you can divide up expediency according as it applies to the body or the mind or external possessions. For the body, strength, beauty, and health are expedient; for the mind, courage, wisdom, and justice. External possessions are friends, wealth, and property. The contraries of these are inexpedient. For a community such things as concord, strength for war, wealth, a plentiful supply of revenue, and excellence and abundance of allies are expedient. In a word we look upon anything of this kind as expedient and the contrary as inexpedient.
  4. Honorable — things are those from which good repute and creditable distinction will accrue to the doers.
  5. Pleasant — things are those which cause joy.
  6. Easy — things are those which are accompanied with the least expenditure of time, trouble, and money.
  7. Practicable — things are all those which admit of performance.
  8. Necessary — things are those the execution of which does not depend upon us but takes place as it were by some necessity divine or human. Such, then, is the nature of things just, lawful, expedient, honourable, easy, practicable, and necessary.