A polemic is a contentious argument that is intended to support a specific position via attacks on a contrary position. Polemics are mostly seen in arguments about controversial topics. The practice of such argumentation is called polemics. A person who often writes polemics, or who speaks polemically, is called a polemicist or a polemic.[1] The word is derived from Greek πολεμικός (polemikos), meaning "warlike, hostile",[2][3] from πόλεμος (polemos), meaning "war".[4]


  • Overview 1
  • Polemic theology 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • External links 6


Along with debate, polemics are one of the most common forms of arguing. Similar to debate, a polemic is confined to a definite thesis. But unlike debate, which may allow for common ground between the two disputants, a polemic is intended only to affirm one 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] Although polemic is typically motivated by strong emotions, such as hatred, for its success these must be stylized in a way comparable to drama, and incorporated into a coolly considered strategy.[6]

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.[7]

Polemic theology

Polemic theology is the branch of theological argumentation devoted to the history or conduct of controversy over religious matters.[8] 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


  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. ^
  6. ^ Andreas Dorschel, 'Passions of the Intellect: A Study of Polemics.' In: Philosophy 90 (2015), no. 4, pp. 679–684 (pdf online)
  7. ^
  8. ^


External links

  • Quotations related to Polemic at Wikiquote