Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Ezekiel Bulver assumes "You're wrong"

In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he 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’, john bairdE. 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 Century.

C.S. Lewis, "'Bulverism,'" God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 273.
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1 comment:

  1. Well, yes, it's John Baird, Canada's Minister of Transportation, in the picture and not actually Ezekiel Bulver. But since Baird is one of the most active MPs in the House and since I rarely hear him off any refutations with substance, I thought he'd make a good poster pic for this mythical Ezekiel Bulver whom Lewis introduces to us.

    Something is definitely amiss. It's very hard to ever have a good discussion (debate) about differing ideas and to keep it focused on the ideas themselves. Too much Bulverism going on!