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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ever thought of a song and then later that day heard it?

I just had a similar moment. This morning my wife and I went on a walk. Our conversations took us to the topic of people's various prejudices and/or predispositions, rather more specifically the tendency for people to label other people's predispositions. These labels often become the main source of ammunition to debate an opponent (or your friend). The root issues of the relevant conversation are discarded and the labels are thrown like grenades.

These thoughts I have been having were nicely summed up later that day when I read an essay entitled "Bulverism" by C.S. Lewis. He writes,
"[Y]ou 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."
He goes on to write of a fictional character that he named Ezekiel Bulver:
"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."
It never fails. Whether you and a friend are comparing Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings; The Daily Show vs. Fox News; or more politically charged discussions of abortion, Supreme Court nominees, etc., someone will inevitably accuse the other for being silly or ridiculous. At which point they have become "bulverized."
Next time you are discussing or witnessing a discussion, take note when it switches from the actual topic to "bulverizing" each other.

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