Monday, March 21, 2011

Why “Ezekiel Bulver” assumes you’re wrong (EB 1)

MP John Baird assumes his opponent is wrong and then attempts to show how silly his opponent is -- no real argument here 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’, 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 Century.

C.S. Lewis, “Bulverism,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 273.

1 comment:

  1. The Canadians following these C.S. Lewis readings might understand why I chose to present "Bulverism" this week. The very politician I chose to be my pictorial representative of Ezekiel Bulver proved his resemblance today, as I predicted. When his government was accused of some serious inappropriate conduct, "Mr. Bulver" responded not by defending his government, nor by arguing that the charges were untrue. No, his response was to attack the one bringing the charge, saying that if he had lived in Canada longer he might know better what he was talking about. Totally an Ezekiel Bulver moment in Canadian politics.

    Lewis himself will later apply the concept of Bulverism to politics, so I'm just getting a little bit of a jump start ;)