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For other uses, see Polemic (disambiguation).

A polemic /pəˈlɛmɪk/ is a contentious argument that is intended to establish the truth of a specific understanding and the falsity of the contrary position. Polemics are mostly seen in arguments about very controversial topics. The art or practice of such argumentation is called polemics. A person who often writes polemics, or who speaks polemically, is a polemicist or a polemic.[1] The word is derived from the Greek πολεμικός (polemikos), meaning "warlike, hostile",[2][3] which comes from πόλεμος (polemos), "war".[4]


Along with debate, polemics are one of the most common forms of arguing. Similar to debate, a polemic is confined to a definite controversial thesis. But unlike debate, which may allow for common ground between the two disputants, a polemic is intended only to establish the truth of a point of view while refuting the opposing point of view.

Polemics are usually addressed to important issues in religion, philosophy, politics, or science. Polemic journalism was common in continental Europe at a time when libel laws were not as stringent as they are now.[5]

To support the study of the controversies of the 17th–19th centuries, a British research project has placed online thousands of polemical pamphlets from that era.[6]

Polemic theology[edit]

Polemic theology is the branch of theological argumentation devoted to the history or conduct of controversy over religious matters.[7] It is distinguished from apologetics, the intellectual defense of faith.

Martin Luther's On the Bondage of the Will is an example of polemic theology. It was written in answer to a polemic titled The Freedom of the Will by Desiderius Erasmus.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Springfield, MA, 2005), s.v. "polemic"
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Springfield, MA, 2005), s.v. "polemic"
  3. ^ American College Dictionary (Random House, New York)
  4. ^ πόλεμος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  5. ^ polemic, or polemical literature, or polemics (rhetoric). britannica.com. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 
  6. ^ "Pamphlet and polemic: Pamphlets as a guide to the controversies of the 17th-19th centuries". St Andrews University Library. Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  7. ^ Nicole, Roger R. (Summer 1998). "Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us". The Founders Journal (33). Retrieved 2008-02-21. 


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