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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Tamilnation > Tamilnation Library> Unfolding Consciousness > Frankfurt, Harry G.  - On Bullshit

TAMIL NATION LIBRARY:  Unfolding Consciousness

Video interview with
Harry G. Frankfurt
at Princeton University

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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 sustained inquiry.

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.  - On Bullshit
    Hardcover: 80 pages
    Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 10, 2005) ISBN: 0691122946

* indicates link to Amazon.com online bookshop

"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 Park

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." 


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