I have seen a political discussion on live tv in germany. After attacking a member of the discussion made some solid arguments the attacked person responded by saying what he is saying is pure polemic.

So let me specify my question:

Are there situation where polemic can be negative and positive connotated?

And has the connotation changed in one direction more than in another one (maybe in the last years)?

  • 1
    I think what the accuser was trying to say is that the person was aiding and/or abetting controversy. Is something controversial necessarily negative (with respect to what, that is)? In this context it would be, I suppose, but generally it need not be.
    – user3395
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 11:18
  • @user2684291 Ty, I think your intepration of what the accuser was trying to articulate is correct. But I can't think of a positive connotation in a discussion. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 11:54

1 Answer 1


A polemic

is someone who aggressively argues their point of view and is purposely contentious.

"The word is derived from the Greek meaning warlike, hostile."

In and of itself, polemic is neither positive nor negative, however, since the view may seem radically different to society at the time, it is usually thought to be negative since it goes against the status quo.

However, over time, the view may become appreciated, accepted, and main stream.

An example of this is Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses which at the time was considered heresy and resulted in his ex-communication from the Catholic Church and being declared an outlaw. The ultimate result has been all the Protestant denominations of Christian faith and a vernacular Bible.

Was Luther a thorn in the side of the Catholic Church? Yes.
Is he now considered a great man? Yes.
Is his soul burning in hell? Probably not.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .