Friday, May 4, 2012

The Art of Bullshit

I wrote this following post quite a while ago on my personal blog (which I no longer update because I plan to consolidate all my thoughts and express them here on this platform). What triggered to dig up this old post was the large amount of bullshit I have been hearing recently. I have no doubt that we all have our fair share of bullshit but when one is being bombarded by them in a short period of time, headaches!

So do you like to bullshit? Why do we bullshit? How do we distinguish a lie from a bullshit? I just finished reading a book titled On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt attempts to answer the above questions in a philological approach. The following introduction and excerpts I found to be rather interesting. What do you think?
One of the most salient feature of our culture is 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 it ... we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves ... 
What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false, since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its nonrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to. 
On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt (Princeton University Press, 2005.)

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