On Bullshit
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On Bullshit

3.4 35
by Harry G. Frankfurt
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0691122946

ISBN-13: 9780691122946

Pub. Date: 01/10/2005

Publisher: Princeton University Press

A #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

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

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A #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691122946
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
01/10/2005
Pages:
80
Sales rank:
88,676
Product dimensions:
4.30(w) x 6.34(h) x 0.47(d)

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Table of Contents

Sooner or later, someone had to grapple with the subject of this book and its cultural meaning (or lack thereof). When the challenge was taken up by a Princeton philosopher, the resulting amusement, surprise, and curiosity created an instant bestseller. Is On Bullshit the beginning of a cure or actually a sophisticated complication of the disease? Readers who come to grips with Prof. Frankfurt's analysis will at last be empowered to decide for themselves.

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On Bullshit 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Frankfurt has aptly exposed the intellectual laziness and disconcern for truth that is so prevalent in post-modern society. Far to many people have dismissed truth completely and have ignorantly embraced BS. Frankfurt has recognized this problem and has written a very clever, humorous, and much needed response.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to disagree with the preceding post which suggests that this book is for the pretentious and superficially educated. This was one of the texts for a class at my University concerning the nature of truth and lies. As our Professor (who personally knows Frankfurt) informed us, this book was originally a philosophical essay by Frankfurt. He was understandably surprised when approached by a publishing company wanting to make it into a book. Yes, the publisher's aim in marketing the book is likely for the kitschy humor factor, perhaps as a gag-gift for a pseudo-intellectual friend- but that does not negate the content. The title is perhaps a throw-off, and again contributes to the pseudo-intellectual humor factor. In reality, Frankfurt is a serious philosopher and the text was not originally intended to become a novelty in book form. The companion to this book, 'On Truth', can attest to the fact.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I consider this book to be a very rich philosophical yet hilarious work, challenging in content, and gripping as a smooth read. Tou will agree with me that this book stands out as a tantalizing novel. You never guess what you will find until you start reading it. One thing for sure is that you will laugh, smile and ponder in turns. In the end, you will be more of a truthful guy than a the other type.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
discourseincsharpminor More than 1 year ago
That's the question this book attempts to answer. What is the difference between bullsh*t and hokum or just plain lying. While is has some funny lines, this is actually a serious examination of a very trivial topic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's really good and really brief. Save some money and read it in a BN store.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Lazarus More than 1 year ago
However, unless you are buying it as I gift I recommend you save your $10 and take the half an hour to read it right in the store. This is fairly informative from a psychological standpoint but doesn't really shed a whole lot of light on dealing with the subject for those of us who are, or have experienced, a fair amount of b*llsh*t in our lives which as the professor conveys is all of us and probably on both sides of the coin.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Penicillin More than 1 year ago
Academic, philosophical, but not memorable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Skitch41 More than 1 year ago
Despite the stifled giggles this book's subject and title are sure to produce, Frankfurt gives the reader, in a very short work, a working definition of bulls&*t and why there is so much of it. Frankfurt defines it as a "lack of connection to a concern with truth- [an] indifference to how things really are..." and that the bulls*&ter's "indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to." In fact, Frankfurt contends that the bulls&*ter doesn't even have to be lying! While this may seem like common knowledge, considering how much bulls*&t is out there I like it that someone has taken the time to define it. My only criticism is that with such a small work (67 pages in my edition) Frankfurt should have taken one or two more pages to summarize his previous definitions of bulls*&t. Instead, you have to search through his work to find the definitions. However, having read philosophical works by Kant and other myself, Frankfurt's exclusion of this is not wholly unexpected in my mind.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Frankfurt is saying in his book what needs to be said. And more than once. Bullshit is something we need to constantly guard against. Can't a book with a catchy title convey truth and maybe a little wisdom? And why should it matter that it fits into a pocket and is only 67 pages? If you're going to be critical, argue against something specific in the book, don't just look down your noses and make pompous pronouncements.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was pretentious and superficial. The author did not even have the courage to BS the readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though hardly delicate, the B-stuff must be handled with great care. When I calculated a Fog Index score for the first two pages I got 15.4. That's pretty dense. Not good at all. I also spied four out-of-town words in the 67 pages: pleonine, allusive, ascription, and procrustean. Too heavy for such an earthy subject? I think so. I counted 15 fuzzy-sounding phrases. Typical examples are: literal modes of significance, corpse of nourishment, anarchically impulsive, and pertinent mode of laxity. And consider this prize segment of a sentence:...to articulate, more or less sketchily, the structure of its concept. Say what? Translation please! With no summary, no conclusions, no headings, no real organization what did I learn for about 7 cents per page? Nothing, nada, zip. Correction! I now know what pleonine means. Procrustean? Oh, I already knew that one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book perfectly illustrates its title through its content. It's a very funny piece of fluff by an author whose credentials permit him to bowdlerize his own discipine's writing style and make a few bucks in the bargain. It's anti-pretension at its best and most readable. Besides, what could be more fun for a philosopher than quoting Wittgenstein in a tongue in cheek, ersatz treatise? Eminently readable and, to quote Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (for those who still don't get the joke), Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.