Tuesday, March 28, 2006

On Bullshit (Frankfurt’s Short Treatise)

A discovery at Books, etc. at the Angel yielded an unusually interesting personal reward last week: a tiny hardbound book and treatise on bullshit written by Harry G. Frankfurt (Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Princeton). A quick read (less than an hour on nightshift) goes a short way to explain the essence of bullshit of which there is abundance in our lifetime, thanks in part to the information age. By way of Wittgenstein, Ezra Pound and St. Augustine, Frankfurt proceeds to explain that bullshit is born from a necessity to express an opinion on something that we all too often know nothing or little about. According to Frankfurt liars respect the authority of truth (they respond respectfully to the truth), but bullshitters have scant regard for the truth. They misrepresent what they are up to, irrespective of the truthfulness of their facts. This leads him to conclude that (2005: 61) bullshit is the “greater enemy of the truth than lies are”.

Now there is something to be said about the abundance of bullshit in our age. We see it on T.V. , we hear it on the radio and occasionally it finds its way into government policy documents. Whether it is Bush, Blair or Mugabe (all are bullshitters par excellence) or Mbeki's bullshit about the causes of HIV/AIDS. A worthy treatise and excellent guide for those who are in search of the truth, whatever it is.

Frankfurt, Harry G. 2005. On Bullshit. Princeton University Press: Princeton & Oxford.


Blogger Audrey said...

Dio, you're back!
I missed you! Cyberspace is always a bit cold and empty when you're not in it. But now, as promised, I have to wander off into the desert, never to be seen again, to die of thirst and have the vultures pick my bones clean...
Farewell cruel world...
Hold on. I'll wait until I have a full account of your trip, ok? And I have to tell you about mine too. Then I'll wander off...

10:02 am  

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