About Clear Thinking and Bulverism

Expect to see many quotations from the writings of C. S. Lewis, in this blog; but expect more as well, on many subjects. On his concept of bulverism, consider his own words:

“Suppose I think, after doing my accounts, that I have a large balance
at the bank. And suppose you want to find out whether this belief of
mine is ‘wishful thinking.’ You can never come to any conclusion by
examining my psychological condition. Your only chance of finding out
is to sit down and work through the sum yourself. When you have checked
my figures, then, and then only, will you know whether I have that
balance or not. If you find my arithmetic correct, then no amount of
vapouring about my psychological condition can be anything but a waste
of time. If you find my arithmetic wrong, then it may be relevant to
explain psychologically how I came to be so bad at my arithmetic, and
the doctrine of the concealed wish will become relevant — but only after
you have yourself done the sum and discovered me to be wrong on purely
arithmetical grounds. It is the same with all thinking and all systems
of thought. If you try to find out which are tainted by speculating
about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of
yourself. You must first find out on purely logical grounds which of
them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like,
go on and discover the psychological causes of the error.”

That’s part of his explanation of bulverism.

Be aware that this word is not synonymous with criticism. Bulverism refers to a specific type of criticizing: avoiding the subject of a controversy by assuming something is wrong with the one who disagrees with us.

Post on Bulverism


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

One reply

  1. Anonymous says:

    Recently decided to look up chess combinations by Paul Morphy.
    Came across this blog/site.
    The combination and the annotated game were well done.
    However, it was extremely taxing to scroll to the notes and then back to the game.
    Might you consider laying the text next to the diagrams?
    This would make it so much easier to follow the game via the notes.

Leave a Reply