Wednesday, January 7, 2009


In his short essay “Bulverism”, C.S. Lewis discusses a phenomenon which results from our own arrogance and self righteousness. Lewis describes bulverism as the tendency we often have in modern society to disregard reason and logic in arguments and to assume that any opinion apart from our own is wrong. We then proceed to explain why a person is wrong without considering the possibility of their argument having any validity.

Lewis counters that you must examine a concept or idea logically and objectively (he uses the example of the balance of a bank account) to determine whether it is correct before you begin to point fingers showing what is wrong with a person to cause their idea to be incorrect. He says, “…you must show that a person is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong.” He explains that it is only after we eliminate “bulverism” that we can use reason to determine the correctness or incorrectness of a belief, such as theism or more specifically, the Christian faith.

According to Lewis, “All our knowledge of the universe beyond our immediate experiences depends on inferences from these experiences. If our inferences do not give a genuine insight into reality, then we can know nothing.” He explains that our thoughts can have one of two possible sources: ordinary mindless causes, in which case no real insight can be drawn from the thought; or “reasons," in which case the thought holds some valuable meaning. In other words, only those theories which are reasonable are valid. Lewis states that our own thought and will are not a product of nature – they are not a result of some meaningless cause. They are the creation of some greater “self-existent Will or Reason outside ourselves, in fact, a Supernatural.”

I found this essay to be very insightful. I agree that theories and ideas need to be broken down and processed reasonably in order to determine their "trueness" or "falseness". I also agree that the source of the reason or will by which we discern has to be some greater Reason (God). I also think that the phenomenon of bulverism is one which is very prevalent in society. We tend to be a very sinful and self-centered people. We have a general inability to see things from the perspective of others. Our arrogance prevents us from seeing value in the insights and thoughts of others and the error in our own thoughts. This is not to say that every thought or opinion any person has is necessarily correct. But I do think there is a need for an increased humility among people in general. We need to look at theories and beliefs in a more objective manner rather than immediately moving to judge the person who produced that thought or theory.

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