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C. S. Lewis on “Bulverism”

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C. S. Lewis

The modern method [of argumentation] is to assume without discussion that [your opponent] is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it Bulverism. Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third — ‘Oh you say that because you are a man.’ ‘At that moment’, E. Bulver assures us, ‘there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.’ That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth [and Twenty-First] Century.

–C. S. Lewis, “Bulverism,” in God in the Dock, p. 273

6 Replies to “C. S. Lewis on “Bulverism”

  1. 1
    Joseph says:

    And here I thought that was an evolved characteristic via duplications of the BS gene cluster.

    I am sure it is genetic and leads to close-mindedness.

    It proliferates through multiple contacts in low places.

    This condition can run rampant if left unchecked. And if it becomes fixed the population is doomed to live a life in which everywhere they look they see dumb people. 🙂

  2. 2
    BarryA says:

    I variation of this tactic is “Bolivar-ism” in which you take off your watch and throw it at your opponent.

  3. 3
    bFast says:

    BarryA, I’m not rich enough to afford a Bulivar, is there a poor man’s equivalent like the timex-ism?

  4. 4
    Frost122585 says:

    This is just a social form of misdirection- take the opponent’s mind off of the subject matter at hand- use emotive hyperbole and never ever go too deeply into an argument of substance.

    People who know they can’t defend their own championed point of view naturally aim “to defeat their opponent” any way possible, instead of trying to “defeat their opponent’s IDEAS” on their own merit.”

  5. 5

    […] I think it’s more than just about Gene pool size. I.e. it isn’t the number of traits… Frost122585: This is just a social form of misdirection- take the opponent’s mind off of the subject matter […]

  6. 6

    […] C. S. Lewis, “Bulverism,” in God in the Dock, p. 273, which I got from here. […]

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