I have found that one of the most influential people of the Twentieth Century is virtually unknown to the world. His name is Ezekiel Bulver. I learned of him first in the writings of C. S. Lewis but I now see his influence everywhere.
Here are three paragraphs from “God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics,” by C. S. Lewis. This passage is from his Essay on “Bulverism.” The story picks ups with Lewis addressing the claim by Freudians and Marxists that all thought is tainted by complexes and ideologies.
If we say that all thoughts are thus tainted, then, of course we must remind them that Freudianism and Marxism are as much systems of thought as Christian theology or philosophical idealism. The Freudian and Marxian are in the same boat with all the rest of us, and cannot criticize us from outside. They have sawn off the branch they were sitting on. If, on the other hand, they say that the taint need not invalidate their thinking, then neither need it invalidate ours. In which case they have saved their own branch, but also saved ours along with it.
The only line they [Freudians and Marxians] can really take is to say that some thoughts are tainted and others are not – which has the advantage (if Freudians and Marxians regard it as an advantage) of being what every sane man has always believed. But if that is so, we must then ask how you find out which are tainted and which are not. It is no earthly use saying that those are tainted which agree with the secret wishes of the thinker. Some of the things I should like to believe must in fact be true; it is impossible to arrange a universe which contradicts everyone’s wishes, in every aspect, at every moment. 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 only then, will you know whether I have that balance or not. 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.
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 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. Someday 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 right, and the national dynamism our age will thrust you to the wall.’ That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.
A common example of Bulverism is the whole “phobic” phenomenon. I classify my opponent as phobic. Then I move on to examine how she became so phobic. Maybe it was her toilet training at the age of two. Maybe she was trapped within an ideological prison of the religious system of her youth. Maybe she has a chemical imbalance. All this, while bypassing any discussion as to the merits of her position. It is in actuality a tautology. How do you know she is phobic? She holds X position. How do you know X position is wrong? Only phobic people hold X position.
The fact is, you can’t turn on cable news, read the internet, or even have dinner conversation without being inundated with Bulverism. Ezekiel Bulver owns the public square. The true discussion of ideas is almost viewed as a pathology. Love him or hate him, Ezekiel Bulver's leagacy is every where.