On Bullshit

8 02 2008

Scott Jacobs‘ concluded his keynote lecture on verbal manipulation in American advertising and politics with a quote from Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit:

Speaking with disregard for the truth is the essence of bullshit.

Without having read the book, I’m a fan. We need social research like this:

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.”

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