On Bullshit

On Bullshit
by Harry G. Frankfurt

A small, funny book I picked up at the library after the author was interviewed on the Daily Show – it’s a scholarly inquiry on the definition of “bullshit.” From the Amazon.com description:

“More pertinent is Frankfurt’s focus on intentions–the practice of bullshit, rather than its end result. Bullshitting, as he notes, is not exactly lying, and bullshit remains bullshit whether it’s true or false. The difference lies in the bullshitter’s complete disregard for whether what he’s saying corresponds to facts in the physical world: he ‘does not reject the authority of the 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.'”

But Frankfurt notes another important point — part of the reason that there’s so much bullshit these days is that people are called upon to comment in depth on subjects that they don’t have expert knowledge of, so they bluff their way through.

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