Cheap On Bullshit (Book) (Harry G. Frankfurt) Price
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"One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit," Harry G. Frankfurt writes, in what must surely be the most eyebrow-raising opener in modern philosophical prose. "Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted." This compact little book, as pungent as the phenomenon it explores, attempts to articulate a theory of this contemporary scourge--what it is, what it does, and why there's so much of it. The result is entertaining and enlightening in almost equal measure. It can't be denied; part of the book's charm is the puerile pleasure of reading classic academic discourse punctuated at regular intervals by the word "bullshit." 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."
This may sound all too familiar to those of use who still live in the "reality-based community" and must deal with a world convulsed by those who do not. But Frankfurt leaves such political implications to his readers. Instead, he points to one source of bullshit's unprecedented expansion in recent years, the postmodern skepticism of objective truth in favor of sincerity, or as he defines it, staying true to subjective experience. But what makes us think that anything in our nature is more stable or inherent than what lies outside it? Thus, Frankfurt concludes, with an observation as tiny and perfect as the rest of this exquisite book, "sincerity itself is bullshit." --Mary Park
| AUTHOR: || Harry G. Frankfurt |
| CATEGORY: || Book |
| MANUFACTURER: || Princeton University Press |
| ISBN: || 0691122946 |
| TYPE: || Ethics & Moral Philosophy, General, Philosophy, Truthfulness and falsehood, American Language and Literature, Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy, Sociology, World History/Comparative History |
| MEDIA: || Hardcover |
| # OF MEDIA: || 1 |
| UPC: || 218681122946 |
Customer Review of On Bullshit
Frankfurt begins trying to define the term, drawing from the Oxford English Dictionary and various authors, and similar terms such as "bull-session," "shooting the bull," "humbug," and "hot air."
>Unfortunately, since there is no clearly agreed-upon definition of the term, Frankfut's hair-splitting efforts to clarify it come to naught. However, he did clarify why there is so much b-s - it is the unavoidable result of people needing to talk about something they little or nothing about. In other words, the combination of today's complexities and our shallow educations.
>Interesting reading in the bookstore (if you have nothing else to do), but not worth buying
People use the word "BS" all the time, and we all have a rough, intuitive sense of what it means. But as Frankfurt notes, it's actually a very hard word to pin down. Over the years I've wondered, from time to time, what would be a good *explicit* definition. In "On BS", Frankfurt tries to answer this question. In my opinion, he succeeds. "On BS" offers a clear and convincing definition that explains why we describe many acts of communication--but not others--as being instances of BS. His definition also clarifies the distinction between BS and lies. I find that, now that I am mentally equipped with his definition, I can consider specific instances of BS encountered in daily life, and understand more clearly why I find them so contemptible!
>This book is a bit denser than the usual summer read, so I recommend reading it twice; if you are like me you will enjoy it more the second time.
A Must read For Those Lost In Nuance
Mr. Frankfurt writes of bull-excrement as though it ascends to the level of deliberative lying, which generally is typified by forethought and an intent to profit. If such elements were prevalent in BS, that term would not have found its way into our daily lexicon as a euphemism for "jawing." As in, "We just sat around Bsing all day." People in America "shoot the excrement," not the lies. Frankfurt contends that the BSer has a complete disregard for whether what he is saying is germane to facts in the physical world. By that definition, all discussions of faith and God, and ones belief in the same, would fall under the subtext, BS. An elitist evocation if I ever heard one.
>Mr. Frankfurt states that, for the BSer, sincerity, or staying true to ones subjective experience, is often favored in lieu of objective truth. BS is not a complete disregard for objective truth, but rather an accepted consensus that it is unfeasible for all subject matters to be empirically scrutinized by the masses...you know, us great unwashed. My contention is that they should not have to be in order for us to participate in the public discourse. Anecdotal experience is often all one has to go on. Not to mention that most subject matters, excepting the most regimented, like math, are often not fully fleshed out in academia or, worse yet, are fraught with contradictory findings...and will be throughout our lifetimes. I suppose for Mr. Frankfurt and his ilk, it is more honest to argue a lie portending to be the truth by flawed scientific analysis than it is to defend a truth supported only by faith or subjective experience. Must we all wade through the voluminous pretense of academic sludge before we can voice our opinion on it? I've never read any empirical studies on the palatability of dog excrement, but I feel quite confident employing my subjective experience to dissuade my child from trying it. Or should I tell him, "Sorry son, but I have no objective truth on the subject to impart to you at this time."
>I googled variations on the word BS and was treated to an eclectic group of people who, depending on which side of the excrement you stand, were branded with the tagline, BSer. They ranged from the famous (Clinton and Limbaugh) to the infamous (The CIA & Kenneth Bucchi). I decided to explore the latter and concluded that Bucchi is probably just a BSer (subjective reconstruction of a truth clouded by traumatic experience), the CIA, a liar or ass-coverer (collectively), and CNN, which stood at the center of the storm that swirled around the two, a marginalizer...one who attempts to minimize the gravity of the BS by minimizing its impact or significance.
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