Leroy Huizenga…

Leroy Huizenga… August 31, 2012

…on the Bulverism of same-sex marriage supporters.  Bulverism, for them that don’t know, is a term coined by C.S. Lewis who

wrote a little essay titled “‘Bulverism’: Or, the Foundation of 20th Century Thought,” in which he invents a hapless character, Ezekiel Bulver:

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 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.

Bulverism explains how we can know that I oppose gay marriage due to homophobia, speak highly of Perry Lorenzo due to my suppressed homosexuality, will not vote for Romney due to my secret love of Obama, will not vote for Obama due to my racism, oppose torture due to my love of terrorism, oppose lying to Planned Parenthood due to my secret zeal for abortion, oppose abortion due to my intense misogyny, dislike the philosophy of Ayn Rand because of my Communist sympathies, hate Communism because of my contempt for the poor, oppose Radical Traditionalism because of my hatred of the Faith, love the Faith because of my hatred of Protestants, oppose Progressive Dissent because of my Reactionary hatred of Progress, dislike antisemitism because of my capitulation to Jewish subversives, criticize Israeli treatment of Palestinian Christians because of my hatred of Jews, support Just War theory because of my bellicose neocon sympathies, support Just War theory because I am a peacenik who wants America to lose, and like Magisterial teaching because I am a Reactionary who wishes to roll back Vatican II and a Liberal stooge who refuses to roll back Vatican II.

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  • justamom

    Bulverism – it’s an epidemic!

  • Catholic grandma

    Wow, that was quite rich…I feel like I just re-experienced every argument in my adult life right in front of me.Without pandering to you, Mr Shea, I will say that I agree with nearly every point that you mention and yet the world keeps telling me how “wrong ” I am…now I know why.

    A small editorial suggestion…your second “support Just War” I believe was meant to be an “oppose Just War”

    • Jay

      I’m pretty sure it’s correct as-is. He’s right, I’ve seen opponents of Just War theory make both claims he mentions of Just War supporters (pacifists will say you’re a war monger and war mongers will say you’re a pacifist).

  • beccolina

    That is a very useful term indeed. When I was just starting my teaching career, I was wrong because I was young, because I’d had too happy of a childhood, because I wasn’t a minority, because I didn’t have children of my own, etc. Nice to know there is a term for the inanity.

  • Paul H


    Please don’t take this comment the wrong way. I am not trying to “slam” you or “blast” you or whatever other colorful verbs the mainstream media likes to use in their headlines to describe any instance of criticism. I just want to say that I think that this would have been a great post, if you had not made it all about you at the end.

  • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

    A term equivalent to “Bulverism” for this fallacy, which I learned in school back in the 1950’s, is “the genetic fallacy”, which assumes that an explanation (true or false) of a position’s psychological or other origin (“genesis”) explains it away.
    Actually, Mr. Shea’s views given in his present post are not all that rare among American Catholics. An author not seldom uses self simply as a concrete example, for vividness. So it’s not at all evident that such use of self as example makes the author’s statement “all about him”.

    • Paul H

      Hi Joseph,

      I understand your point that Mark may be using himself as an example of how people often react to other Catholics who hold the same views that he does. I was responding to the way the post came across to me. It came across to me as being rather self-centered in the last paragraph. I grant that it may not have been intended that way.

      • Blog Goliard

        Are you sure that focusing so much on “the way the post came across to me” isn’t a sign that you’re the one trying to make it all about you?

    • Ector de Maris

      I agree. I think Mark is, underneath that “Catholic” veneer, a closet Bulverist. That is the kind of Bulverist psychological makeup that motivates posts like this and why we should ignore them. ; )

    • Jamie R

      The genetic fallacy is similar, but slightly different. The genetic fallacy is a bad argument that a proposition is false. It’s a strictly logical fallacy. A proposition is treated as false solely because of someone who said it, who doesn’t even have to be the present interlocutor.

      Bulverism is different. Bulverism isn’t even an argument against the proposition. Bulverism is a psychological or probabilistic “fallacy.” E.g., if X argues that we should have gun control, and Y says that we shouldn’t have gun control because Hitler also wanted gun control, that’s the genetic fallacy. On the other hand, if Y says that X only wants gun control because X is a weak-willed effeminate liberal, that would be Bulverism.

  • Geoff

    Bulverism is itself wrong. It cannot possibly be correct since:

    1) It was invented by a child
    2) That child was a male
    3) Bulverism is communist
    4) I dont like it.

    So there Ezekiel Bulver, put that in your pipe and smoke it!

  • Catholic grandma

    Is there reverse Bulverism? Im right because______ (unassociated thing that has nothing to do with the topic at hand).

    I have a good friend who (during discourse about anything) will remind you “I have 10 kids” with the subtle undertone that anyone with 10 kids MUST be right.

    We once moved into a house that had been previously rented by the best friends of the next door neighbors. They left the house with problems that shouldn’t have been and caused me angst. My neighbor said “They couldn’t have done than, I’ve know them 15 years” (So if Im friends with you for X years than I never make mistakes or do stupid selfish things? Wow, Im looking forward to hitting that magical moment in time. )

    • “Is there reverse Bulverism?”

      That’s an interesting question.

      If someone is arguing *that* he’s right, it would be a non sequitur — or perhaps, more specifically, a fallacious argument from authority.

      But reverse Bulverism isn’t an argument *that* he’s right; it begs the question of whether he’s right, and moves on to why he, of all the children of men, has arrived at the sure and certain conclusion.

      You might call that * fons autoauctoritatis*, if that were proper Latin for “fount of self-appointed authority.” But “reverse Bulverism” is probably as good a name as any, and better than most.

  • Sean O

    Well done Mr. Shea. You have succinctly captured your many flaws as a Pinky Lefty Democrat, right wing fascist Republican corporatist.

    Straighten up and fly right Marky Mark.

  • Tom R

    My personal favourite is “The Reformation was a revolt of the rich against the poor.” The moment I read that, it all made sense. Hus’ real agenda was to give Henry VIII ideological cover to loot the abbeys. It explains why the most radical left-wing Christians – the Anabaptists, the Diggers and Levellers, the Quaker abolitionists – all abandoned “Sola Scriptura”, re-adopted a very high-church version of Anglicanism, and quickly returned full reunion with Rome. It explains why the distribution of wealth in countries that escaped the tragedy of the Reformation is so much more equal that Marxism has never had any attraction to the poor there; whereas in Protestant America and Britain, the Communist Party regularly polled 30-40% of the votes because Elizabeth Tudor concentrated all the wealth and power in a small caste of wealthy dons. Yes, that interpretation of the Reformation explained everything at last.