A polemic is a variety of arguments or controversies made against one opinion, doctrine, or person. Other variations of argument are debate
Debate or debating is a method of interactive and representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than logical argument, which only examines consistency from axiom, and factual argument, which only examines what is or isn't the case or rhetoric which is a technique of persuasion...

 and discussion. The word is derived from the Greek polemikos (πολεμικός), meaning "warlike, hostile".


A polemic is a form of dispute, wherein the main efforts of the disputing parties are aimed at establishing the superiority of their own points of view regarding an issue. Along with debate, polemic is one of the more common forms of dispute. Similar to debate, it is constrained by a definite thesis which serves as the subject of controversy. However, unlike debate, which may seek common ground between two parties, a polemic is intended to establish the supremacy of a single point of view by refuting an opposing point of view.

Polemic usually addresses serious matters of religious, philosophical, political, or scientific importance, and is often written to dispute or refute a widely accepted position.


Polemic journalism was common in continental Europe, when libel laws were not as stringent.

To support study of the polemics and controversies of the 17th-19th centuries, a British research project has placed thousands of pamphlets of that era online.


Polemic theology is the branch of theological
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 argument devoted to the history or conduct of controversy on religious matters. As such, it is distinguished from apologetics
Apologetics is the discipline of defending a position through the systematic use of reason. Early Christian writers Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, "speaking in defense") is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of reason. Early Christian writers...

, the intellectual defense of faith.

Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

's "On the Bondage of the Will
On the Bondage of the Will
On the Bondage of the Will , by Martin Luther, was published in December 1525. It was his reply to Desiderius Erasmus's De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio or On Free Will, which had appeared in September 1524 as Erasmus's first public attack on Luther, after being wary about the methods of...

" is an example of polemic theology, written against and in answer to The Freedom of the Will
De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio
De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio is the Latin title of a polemical work written by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam in 1524...

 by Desiderius Erasmus
Desiderius Erasmus
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus , known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, and a theologian....


Noted polemicists

The following are some people associated with "polemic":
  • Alain Chartier
    Alain Chartier
    Alain Chartier was a French poet and political writer.He was born at Bayeux, into a family marked by considerable ability. His eldest brother Guillaume became bishop of Paris; and Thomas became notary to the king. Jean Chartier, a monk of St Denis, whose history of Charles VII is printed in vol. III...

     (French author)
  • Angelus Silesius
    Angelus Silesius
    Angelus Silesius was a German Catholic mystic and poet.-Life:Silesius was born in Breslau , Silesia as son of Polish noble and German mother...

     (Polish poet)
  • Ann Coulter
    Ann Coulter
    Ann Hart Coulter is an American lawyer, conservative social and political commentator, author, and syndicated columnist. She frequently appears on television, radio, and as a speaker at public events and private events...

     (American political commentator and author)
  • Antero Tarquínio de Quental (Portuguese poet)
  • Antoine Arnauld
    Antoine Arnauld
    Antoine Arnauld — le Grand as contemporaries called him, to distinguish him from his father — was a French Roman Catholic theologian, philosopher, and mathematician...

     (French theologian)
  • António Feliciano de Castilho
    Antonio Feliciano de Castilho
    António Feliciano de Castilho, 1st Viscount of Castilho , Portuguese man of letters, born at Lisbon.He lost his sight at the age of six, but the devotion of his brother Augusto, and aided by a retentive memory, enabled him to go through his school and university course with success; and he acquired...

     (Portuguese poet and translator)
  • Antony Khrapovitsky (Russian archbishop)
  • Christopher Hitchens
    Christopher Hitchens
    Christopher Eric Hitchens is an Anglo-American author and journalist whose books, essays, and journalistic career span more than four decades. He has been a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, World Affairs, The Nation, Free Inquiry, and became a media fellow at the...

     (Anglo-American journalist and literary critic)
  • Daniel Defoe
    Daniel Defoe
    Daniel Defoe , born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, and pamphleteer, who gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain and along with others such as Richardson,...

     (English author)
  • David al-Mukammas (Jewish philosopher)
  • David Icke
    David Icke
    David Vaughan Icke is an English writer and public speaker, best known for his views on what he calls "who and what is really controlling the world." Describing himself as the most controversial speaker in the world, he has written 18 books explaining his position, and has attracted a substantial...

     (English writer)
  • Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin
    Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin
    Prince Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin was an emigre Russian aristocrat and Catholic priest known as The Apostle of the Alleghenies. Since 2005, he has been under investigation for possible canonization by the Catholic Church...

     (American missionary)
  • Edward Abbey
    Edward Abbey
    Edward Paul Abbey was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, criticism of public land policies, and anarchist political views. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which has been cited as an inspiration by radical environmental...

     (American author)
  • Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
    Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
    Filippo Tommaso Emilio Marinetti was an Italian poet and editor, the founder of the Futurist movement, and a fascist ideologue.-Childhood and adolescence:...

     (Italian author and artist)
  • François Mauriac
    François Mauriac
    François Mauriac was a French author; member of the Académie française ; laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature . He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur .-Biography:...

     (French author)
  • Gennadios II Scholarios (patriarch of Constantinople)
  • George Gillespie
    George Gillespie
    George Gillespie was a Scottish theologian.-Life:He was born at Kirkcaldy, where his father, John Gillespie, was parish minister, and studied at St. Andrews University as a "presbytery bursar". On graduating he became domestic chaplain to John Gordon, 1st Viscount Kenmure , and afterwards to John...

     (Scottish minister and writer)
  • George Orwell
    George Orwell
    Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

      (English author)
  • Georges Bernanos
    Georges Bernanos
    Georges Bernanos was a French author, and a soldier in World War I. Of Roman Catholic and monarchist leanings, he was a violent adversary to bourgeois thought and to what he identified as defeatism leading to France's defeat in 1940.-Biography:Bernanos was born at Paris, into a family of...

     (French author)
  • Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini
    Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini
    Poggio Bracciolini was an Italian scholar, writer and humanist. He recovered a great number of classical Latin texts, mostly lying forgotten in German and French monastic libraries, and disseminated manuscript copies among the educated world.- Biography :Poggio di Duccio was...

     (Italian scholar)
  • Jack London
    Jack London
    John Griffith "Jack" London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone...

     (American author)
  • Jacob Israel Emden (Danish rabbi)
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
    Jean-Paul Sartre
    Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

     (French Philosopher)
  • Johann Eck
    Johann Eck
    Dr. Johann Maier von Eck was a German Scholastic theologian and defender of Catholicism during the Protestant Reformation. It was Eck who argued that the beliefs of Martin Luther and Jan Hus were similar.-Life:...

     (German theologian)
  • Johann Fischart
    Johann Fischart
    Johann Fischart was a German satirist and publicist.-Biography:Fischart was born, probably, at Strasbourg , in or about the year 1545, and was educated at Worms in the house of Kaspar Scheid, whom in the preface to his Eulenspiegel he mentions as his cousin and preceptor...

     (German satirist)
  • Johannes Pfefferkorn
    Johannes Pfefferkorn
    Johannes Pfefferkorn was a Jewish-born, German Catholic theologian and writer who converted from Judaism. Pfefferkorn actively preached against the Jews and attempted to destroy copies of the Talmud, and engaged in a long running pamphleteering battle with Johann Reuchlin.-Early life:Born a Jew,...

     (German controversialist)
  • John Jewel
    John Jewel
    John Jewel was an English bishop of Salisbury.-Life:He was the son of John Jewel of Buden, Devon, was educated under his uncle John Bellamy, rector of Hampton, and other private tutors until his matriculation at Merton College, Oxford, in July 1535.There he was taught by John Parkhurst,...

     (English bishop)
  • John Milton
    John Milton
    John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

     (English poet)
  • John Steinbeck
    John Steinbeck
    John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden and the novella Of Mice and Men...

     (American writer)
  • Jonathan Swift
    Jonathan Swift
    Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

     (Irish author and clergyman)
  • Joseph de Maistre
    Joseph de Maistre
    Joseph-Marie, comte de Maistre was a French-speaking Savoyard philosopher, writer, lawyer, and diplomat. He defended hierarchical societies and a monarchical State in the period immediately following the French Revolution...

     (French moralist)
  • Juan Pablo Forner (Spanish writer)
  • Junius
    Junius was the pseudonym of a writer who contributed a series of letters to the Public Advertiser, from 21 January 1769 to 21 January 1772. The signature had been already used, apparently by him, in a letter of 21 November 1768...

     (English author)
  • Kaj Skagen
    Kaj Skagen
    Kaj Skagen is a Norwegian writer,. He received the Riksmål Society Literature Prize in 1991. His first book Gatedik was published in 1971. From 1978 to 1980, he published and edited the periodical "Arken". In 1982 he won the first prize of a national novel contest with the novel Broene brenner...

     (Norwegian author and essayist)
  • Kyle Arvoy (American philosopher)
  • Karl Marx
    Karl Marx
    Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

     (German philosopher)
  • Laura Kipnis
    Laura Kipnis
    Laura Kipnis is a professor of media studies at Northwestern University. She is also a cultural and media critic who focuses especially on gender issues, sexual politics, popular culture, and pornography...

     (American Author/Painter)
  • Leo Pinsker (Russian-Polish physician and polemicist)
  • Léon Bloy
    Léon Bloy
    Léon Bloy , was a French novelist, essayist, pamphleteer and poet.-Biography:Bloy was born in Notre-Dame-de-Sanilhac, in the arondissement of Périgueux, Dordogne. He was the second of six sons of Voltairean freethinker and stern disciplinarian Jean Baptiste Bloy and his wife Anne-Marie Carreau,...

     (French author)
  • Léon Daudet
    Léon Daudet
    Léon Daudet was a French journalist, writer, an active monarchist, and a member of the Académie Goncourt.-Move to the right:...

     (French journalist and author)
  • Leon of Modena
    Leon of Modena
    Leon Modena or Yehudah Aryeh Mi-modena was a Jewish scholar born in Venice of a notable French family that had migrated to Italy after an expulsion of Jews from France.-Life:...

     (Italian rabbi and writer)
  • Lorenzo Valla
    Lorenzo Valla
    Lorenzo Valla was an Italian humanist, rhetorician, and educator. His family was from Piacenza; his father, Luciave della Valla, was a lawyer....

     (Italian humanist)
  • Louis Maimbourg
    Louis Maimbourg
    Louis Maimbourg was a French Jesuit and historian.Born at Nancy, Maimbourg entered the Society of Jesus at the age of sixteen, and after studying at Rome became a classical master in the Jesuit college at Rouen. He afterwards devoted himself to preaching, but with only moderate success...

     (French historian)
  • Maximus Planudes
    Maximus Planudes
    Maximus Planudes, less often Maximos Planoudes , Byzantine grammarian and theologian, flourished during the reigns of Michael VIII Palaeologus and Andronicus II Palaeologus. He was born at Nicomedia in Bithynia, but the greater part of his life was spent in Constantinople, where as a monk he...

     (Turkish scholar and theologian)
  • Michael Moore
    Michael Moore
    Michael Francis Moore is an American filmmaker, author, social critic and activist. He is the director and producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, which is the highest-grossing documentary of all time. His films Bowling for Columbine and Sicko also place in the top ten highest-grossing documentaries...

  • Murray Bookchin
    Murray Bookchin
    Murray Bookchin was an American libertarian socialist author, orator, and philosopher. A pioneer in the ecology movement, Bookchin was the founder of the social ecology movement within anarchist, libertarian socialist and ecological thought. He was the author of two dozen books on politics,...

     (American social philosopher)
  • Patrick Buchanan (US politician, political commentator and author)
  • Pierre Nicole
    Pierre Nicole
    Pierre Nicole was one of the most distinguished of the French Jansenists.Born in Chartres, he was the son of a provincial barrister, who took in charge his education...

     (French theologian)
  • Randolph Silliman Bourne (American writer and critic)
  • Richard Montagu
    Richard Montagu
    Richard Montagu was an English cleric and prelate.-Early life:He was born during Christmastide 1577 at Dorney, Buckinghamshire, where his father Laurence Mountague was vicar, and was educated at Eton. He was elected from Eton to a scholarship at King's College, Cambridge, and admitted on 24...

     (English clergyman)
  • Maximilien Robespierre (leader of the French Revolution)
  • Saadia Gaon
    Saadia Gaon
    Saʻadiah ben Yosef Gaon was a prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the Geonic period.The first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Arabic, he is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature...

     (Jewish exegete and philosopher)
  • Saint Anastasius Sinaita (theologian)
  • Saint Ephraem Syrus (Christian theologian)
  • Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (African bishop)
  • Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (Christian saint)
  • Saint Prosper of Aquitaine (Christian polemicist)
  • Samuel Butler
    Samuel Butler
    Samuel Butler may refer to:*Samuel Butler , author of Hudibras*Samuel Butler , classical scholar, schoolmaster at Shrewsbury, Bishop of Lichfield...

     (English author)
  • Simon-Nicolas-Henri Linguet (French journalist and lawyer)
  • Søren Kierkegaard
    Søren Kierkegaard
    Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

     (Danish philosopher, theologian, and social critic)
  • Sydney Smith
    Sydney Smith
    Sydney Smith was an English writer and Anglican cleric. -Life:Born in Woodford, Essex, England, Smith was the son of merchant Robert Smith and Maria Olier , who suffered from epilepsy...

     (English preacher)
  • Tertullian
    Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

     (Christian theologian)
  • Theoleptus Of Philadelphia (Greek Orthodox bishop)
  • Ulrich von Hutten
    Ulrich von Hutten
    Ulrich von Hutten was a German scholar, poet and reformer. He was an outspoken critic of the Roman Catholic Church and a bridge between the humanists and the Lutheran Reformation...

     (German knight)
  • Victor-Henri Rochefort, marquis de Rochefort-Lucay (French journalist)
  • Vladimir Lenin
    Vladimir Lenin
    Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

     (Russian Marxist and leader of the Russian revolution)

See also

  • Apologia
  • Conversational intolerance
  • Critic
    A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

  • Devil's advocate
    Devil's advocate
    In common parlance, a devil's advocate is someone who, given a certain argument, takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with, just for the sake of argument. In taking such position, the individual taking on the devil's advocate role seeks to engage others in an argumentative...

  • Dialectic
    Dialectic is a method of argument for resolving disagreement that has been central to Indic and European philosophy since antiquity. The word dialectic originated in Ancient Greece, and was made popular by Plato in the Socratic dialogues...

  • Disputation
    In the scholastic system of education of the Middle Ages, disputations offered a formalized method of debate designed to uncover and establish truths in theology and in sciences...

  • Philippic
    A philippic is a fiery, damning speech, or tirade, delivered to condemn a particular political actor. The term originates with Demosthenes, who delivered several attacks on Philip II of Macedon in the 4th century BC....

  • Social gadfly
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