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Now, I haven't read this book, but it looks really interesting. It makes a novel (to me) distinction between liars who understand the truth, and bullshitters who simply don't care. I'm glad someone is seriously studying the concept of bullshit in this new world of memes, avatars and instant media. Because bullshit matters.

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On Bullshit - Harry G. Frankfurt

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7929.html

 

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.

Read some reviews here.

Watch videos of Frankfurt here.

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Replies to This Discussion

A laborer said he used to work for the FAA as an accident investigator. He said that an explosion happened while he was at the scene of a crash causing massive burns to his face requiring a face and eye transplant. As proof he offered "that's the reason my eyes are a different color than my brothers." I understand that bullshitting is a sort of hobby for some people. After that I didn't believe a thing he said, even when he though he was being serious. 

I sure hope his face has at least a few remaining signs of devastation.
If not, it's quasi-pathological.

Accute mythomania - or Pseudologia fantastica.

No scars - not even from excess acne. It was impossible for me to believe that he worked for the FAA. That was the beginning of his problem. I don't recall listening to him after that story even though I worked with him for about a month so I can't say he had mythomania.

Being retired, I read vast amounts of non-fiction and have time for a few oddly-titled books. I acquired and liked Frankfurt's On Bullshit. I gave it to a pal and asked him to pass it along.

Since I own one (or it owns me), I acquired and read Joseph Cohen's Penis Book.

I also acquired and read Debbie Lazarus' paperback Shit Happens: The Book. Also on this one cover is "Somewhere, someone is having a worse day than you".

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