Frankfurt on Bullshit

Reading a book I received for my birthday, I found this:

The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality, and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are.


One response to this loss of confidence has been a retreat from the discipline required by dedication to the ideal of correctness to a quite different sort of discipline, which is imposed by pursuit of an alternative ideal of sincerity.


It is as though he decides that since it makes no sense to try to be true to the facts, he must therefore try instead to be true to himself.

— Harry Frankfurt. On Bullshit Princeton University Press. 2005

The book is a short essay, the second half of which is excellent. Bullshit is a greater threat to truth that just lies, because a lie must at least acknowledge the existence of truth, bullshit doesn’t care at all.


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2 responses to “Frankfurt on Bullshit

  1. Fun distinction.
    For me, “truth” = the approximation of reality. But I only think about “truth” like that when thinking of measurable things: quality or quantity. When arguing about abstractions or things that can’t be measured or tested, I’ve never heard the word “truth” used as anything but deceptive.

    Post-modernism in some of its flavors, is an example of the later.
    When you quoted this piece, can you tell us specifically some of the things that were coming to mind? Or to Frankfurt’s mind?

  2. BTW, edit: threat to truth that just lies –> THAN just lies

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