Video interview with
Harry G. Frankfurt
at Princeton University
Dial-up | Broadband
Excerpt from Chapter 1
at Princeton University Press - "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, nor attracted much
In consequence, 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, we have no theory. I propose to
begin the development of a theoretical understanding of
bullshit, mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory
philosophical analysis. I shall not consider the rhetorical uses
and misuses of bullshit. My aim is simply to give a rough
account of what bullshit is and how it differs from what it is
not--or (putting it somewhat differently) to articulate, more or
less sketchily, the structure of its concept..."
- * Frankfurt, Harry G.
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Princeton University
Press (January 10, 2005) ISBN: 0691122946
"Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial -
notoriously less stable and less inherent than the natures of other things.
And insofar as this
is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit."
From Editorial Review at Amazon.com
"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." .. 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." .. 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
Defining Bullshit - Timothy Noah
"..But what is bullshit, exactly? By which I mean: What are its defining
characteristics? What is its Platonic essence? How does bullshit differ from
such precursors as humbug, poppycock, tommyrot, hooey, twaddle, balderdash,
claptrap, palaver, hogwash, buncombe (or "bunk"), hokum, drivel, flapdoodle,
bullpucky, and all the other pejoratives* favored by H.L. Mencken and his many
imitators? The scholar who answers the question, "What is bullshit?" bids boldly
to define the spirit of the present age..."
On The Bullshit Guy -
Gary Younge in the London Guardian
"Twenty years ago a Yale philosopher gave a little-noticed
lecture on the improbable subject of bullshit. Now, republished
as a 67-page pamphlet, it has become a publishing sensation and
its author is being feted as a guru. How did that happen? ...
There are some dissonant images that the public can't resist.
Such as the sight of a nun breakdancing in her habit in the film
Sister Act, or elderly rural women casually remarking on which
locals "like a bit of cock" in Little Britain's village shop.
Their incongruity holds a particular appeal. We like them not
just because they don't happen but because they shouldn't happen
and secretly we wish that they would. So when a septuagenarian
philosophy professor brings out a book called On Bullshit and it
goes into its 10th reprint in just a few months, maybe we
shouldn't be too surprised."