On Bullshit Summary (6/10) — Unearned Wisdom
On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt is a short book, that discusses the concept of bullshit, from a philosophical perspective. Frankfurt’s writing is academic and formal, but at times, funny. The seriousness and somberness of the tone, mixed with the nature of the subject matter, hits at the essential nature of comedy.
You can expect to, by reading this book, to gain a deeper understanding of the difference between bullshit and deception. There is a deeper discussion that I have linked to below.
The main point that Frankfurt makes about bullshit, is that the author of bullshit shows a total disregard for the truth. It is not that he knows the truth, but misdirects the listener (that is a form of deception), but that he pays no attention to the truth whatsoever.
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, or attracted much sustained inquiry.
In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.
Any suggestion about what conditions are logically both necessary and sufficient for the constitution of bullshit is bound to be somewhat arbitrary. For one thing, the expression bullshit is often employed quite loosely- simply as a generic term of abuse, with no very specific literal meaning.
For another, the phenomenon itself is so vast and amorphous that no crisp and perspicuous analysis of its concept can avoid being procrustean. Nonetheless it should be possible to say something helpful, even though it is not likely to be decisive. Even the most basic and preliminary questions about bullshit remain, after all, not only unanswered but unasked.
Originally published at https://unearnedwisdom.com.