Bulverism is a logical fallacy coined by C. S. Lewis where rather than proving that an argument is wrong, a person instead assumes it wrong, and then goes on to explain why the other person held that argument. It has been suggested that Logical fallacy be merged into this article or section. ... Clive Staples Lewis (29 November 1898 â 22 November 1963), commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis, was an Irish author and scholar. ...
Lewis wrote about this in an essay of the same name (in 1941) which is available to us in the book God in the Dock. He explains the origin of this term as follows: God in the Dock is a collection of essays and speeches from C. S. Lewis. ...
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 a 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 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.
The form of the Bulverism fallacy can be expressed as follows:
You argue that A implies B.
However, you personally desire that A implies B because of C.
Therefore, A does not imply B.
From Bulverism by C. S. Lewis:
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 is 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.
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