The New Bulverism

“Bulverism” is a term coined by C.S. Lewis and was used to describe a rhetorical tactic in any discussion that seeks to render any opinion or view as being the result of something about a person, a consequence of some fact, and therefore render it invalid. So if someone were to say “you only think that because you’re a man” or some other insert here “because you’re (snip)” then they are positioning themselves to never have to deal with any reasons why someone might actually subscribe to a view. They are essentially suggesting that the belief is an involuntary consequence of some fact about the believer.

Realize that Bulverism as described is used to basically make out everything disagreeable to the one engaging in it as mere conventionalities. “You believe that only because” really only works if the “that” you believe isn’t totally off of the wall. If some belief is truly bizarre and rare, if it is unconventional, ascribing that to a mere fact about a person becomes more difficult unless you want to say someone is crazy (“you only believe that because you’re crazy”), or demonicly possessed or something like that.

“Crazy” and things like it can in fact be used as basis for Bulverism because you are asserting a diagnosis; but, the problem is that the diagnosis is less sure. If I say “you just believe that because you’re a man” I would be asserting a diagnosis too, it is just that the diagnosis that is ascribed as a cause is obvious. If I say, and therefore dismiss you outright, it is because you’re crazy that may not be obvious at all. Things like “you’re a man” normally has fewer question marks left open than “you’re crazy” does. This means that Bulverism will mainly be useful to reject anything that seems conventional.

This rhetorical tactic, as put forth by Lewis, is actually quite egalitarian in that it is usable by anyone to outright dismiss whatever someone else might think simply by attributing it to a mere fact about them. I will here assert that this “egalitarian” aspect exists because Lewis described Bulverism as being used to invalidate anything, and not to try to validate anything.

This brings me to the New Bulverism, to what Bulverism has become.

The New Bulverism is not just used to invalidate views and beliefs by ascribing them to causes. The New Bulverism is also used to validate views and beliefs by ascribing them to causes too. It is used to both ends, sometimes simultaneously by the same person.

This is possible because the New Bulverism has become a servant to what might be called a Zeitgeist of the Age, or the spirit of the age, where the old Bulverism was simply a tool for whomever used it.

What is being claimed here is fairly simple: the old Bulverism depended on a point from philosophy that views ascribable to conditions rather than reasons are inferior, mere consequences. The New Bulverism no longer considers reasons a better cause for beliefs but instead conforming to a specific conventional way of thinking, which ultimately this means facts about people as filtered through a specific sense of conventional thinking.

So where the old Bulverism came about because philosophy was abused, the New Bulverism is simply a form of ideological abuse and rhetorical gamesmanship.

So if a view is in accordance to the Zeitgeist of the Age ascribing it to a fact about a person is deemed a way to make it inherently valid, and no amount of reasons to disagree with the notion will ever make it invalid. “Intersectionality”, ascribing victom status to some and oppressor status to others simply because of some fact about them, is one example of ways in which the New Bulverism plays out.

But if a belief is in anyway contrary to the spirit of the age they are held to be invalid and the diagnosis is frequently given as things like “bigot”, “homophobic”, “Islamophobic”, just being or the wrong race (on not reputed to be a victim) or the wrong sex (or straight).

The New Bulverism is the exclusive property of the spirit of the age. It can be used to validate things are are very unconventional, that are even outright bonkers, just as it can be used to invalidate anything against it that seems conventional. It is ideology that matters for the New Bulverism. As such it is not in any way egalitarian as the old Bulverism was.

How has this transition happened?

Well, in a way it didn’t. I don’t think there was some moment in time when one Social Justice Warrior ever turned to another and said: “Hey, wouldn’t it be a hoot if we took this thing C.S. Lewis wrote of and made it serve us and only us?” but rather it is an outflowing consequence of things like critical theory / Cultural Marxism and it just happens to line up with what Lewis wrote of so that one might see how a progression could have happened had it happened and thus become able to better describe “New Bulverism” that exists around us in our society.

This is in line with Lewis’ own motivation for writing of Bulverism in the first place, for as he was seeing this peculiar abuse of philosophy being used around him it seemed to him to be unfortunate that it had no person as its inventor, someone who had some “a’ha!” moment and so he created a fictional man, Bulver, hoping to someday write his story. Sadly he never did.

For me, likewise, I’m looking at something going on in the culture around me and I’m trying to explain it.

When Lewis, a man of reasoning and judging for reasons, wrote of Bulverism he wrote in an environment where the ones engaging in Bulverism might reasonably still be perpretrators for rhetorical advantage rather than parrots conditioned by perpetrators to squawk on command.

In short he was dealing with people pushing things like critical theory and not those fashioned by it into weapons of the culture war.

But now we are all too frequently dealing with people who have not been educated so much as they have been indoctrinated. If you go back to things like School of Darkness by Dodd (it can be downloaded in PDF form online) you may see from what was written about a teacher Sarah Parks (beginning on page 25) how easy it is to inculcate sentiment rather than thinking through the that it is relatively easy to indoctrinate with carefully placed criticism, abusing authority as a educator and even peer pressure (for Parks was herself not a much older woman). With these in mind we might look at Lewis’ own The Abolition of Man in clearer light.

In the hands of these, what Lewis called Bulverism ends up having a very different character, becoming an essential division between things that are approved of and things which are not approved of … more tellingly between people who are approved of (victims) and those who are disapproved (those deemed in any class that oppresses). If a view is merely the result of some trait then it is, without a hint of contradiction, unquestionably valid if it is seen as an approved of consequence of X or trait Y, one that the zeitgeist of the age approves of, but inherently invalid if in any way against the age.

The “New Bulverism” is really just an outgrowth of Cultural Marxism, a way to resist any reasons contrary to critical theory, or even to resist Reason itself. It is an abuse of ideology … but remember that the function of Cultural Marxism (critical theory) was not to create an enduring Socialist State but to bring the nations infected with it to ruin … so there is nothing incidental about the New Bulverism as there was about the old. The old was the result of shoddy philosophy but the New is the result of applied indoctrination.

There is little accidental about the New Bulverism.