On Bullshit

On Bullshit

Book - 2005
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One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, as Harry Frankfurt writes, "we have no theory."

Frankfurt, one of the world's most influential moral philosophers, attempts to build such a theory here. With his characteristic combination of philosophical acuity, psychological insight, and wry humor, Frankfurt proceeds by exploring how bullshit and the related concept of humbug are distinct from lying. He argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all.

Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner's capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 2005.
ISBN: 9780691122946
Branch Call Number: 177.3 FRA
Characteristics: 67 p. ; 16 cm.


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Feb 02, 2018

This 2005 book is now more useful in 2018 than it was when published, as now, in the USA, we have a BS'er as president. The book delineates the difference between a BS'er and a liar. The liar knows the truth and purposefully tells falsehoods. The BS'er doesn't particularly care about the truth and is only spewing BS to divert attention from unwanted discussion. A liar has to know actual facts, but a BS'er just has to have a general cloudy idea of what he is talking about. He goes through his BS and pooooofffff, you forgot all about what you may have wanted to be thinking about.

Mar 16, 2017

A Princeton philosopher looks at this word, comparing it to lies and liars. Book was recommended at news website MinnPost in the comments section of an article on our current US president. Short essay, interesting.

Feb 22, 2017

Truly a scholarly treatise on Bullshit. If you have ever wanted to know the difference between lying, nonsense, humbug and Bullshit, this volume is for you.

CMLibrary_gjd_0 Oct 19, 2016

This is a timely little book that we could all use about now.

Jun 25, 2016

A really short and informal essay, ostensibly of philosophy, that tries to analyze what bullshit (humbug, etc.) is. It was a little entertaining and a little enlightening, but not a lot.

Jun 19, 2015

Very good, interesting philosophical discussion exploring the difference between bullshit and lying, citing classical philosophers. Lying's purpose is to convince one of a (known to the liar) untruth, but bullshit does not concern itself with truth or falsehood. I got the referral from the Philosophy Bites podcast.

May 31, 2014

A crass title on a analytically charged look at a lowfalutin topic known to be emitted as a "throwaway".I can particulary,see the interlink btw linguistics and philosophy here.

Part of me feels like wanting to quote this whole short-ish philosophy book ad verbatim next time someone uses this word ;) or better yet when a little kid uses this word.

Kirbs Jul 09, 2011

The routine refusal to speak with regard to the truth is called bullshit because evasion of normativity—correctness being, after all, a standard external to one's personal desires—produces a kind of ordure, a dissemination of garbage, the scattering of shit. This is why, Frankfurt argues, bullshit is far more threatening, and politically evil, than lying. The bullshitter "does not reject the authority of truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are." [Kingwell]

And the workplace is full of it.

jcrow Jul 05, 2011

This is the kind of book that would pull someone's head out of there ars, thats if there honest with them self.........FACTS ONLY PLEASE !!!!!!!!!!!!!

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