Thursday, March 17, 2005

On Bullshit

It occurred to me at 3:30 a.m., as I reflected on my most recent posts regardiing The Big Dig, Senatorial Filibuster and Harvard Political Correctness, that we all need to make a stand against bullshit. We need to stop pussyfooting around with bullshitters, interrupt them and just say "BULLSHIT!"

Matt Amorello -- BULLSHIT!

Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer -- BULLSHIT!!

Susan Estrich -- BULLSHIT!!

Anyway, I finally got back to sleep, but when I came to work this morning, I typed "bullshit" into Google, and made a revelatory discovery:

"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, or 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." -- Harry Frankfurt, Princeton University

Finally, a (contemporary) philosopher I can relate to!

Dr. Frankfurt's brilliant exposition on a subject near and dear to all of our hearts is now available in a book of the same title, at the incredible bargain price of $8.94. Shows you what people at Amazon think bullshit is worth these days.

Princeton University Press says this:

"...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."

John Kerry, are you listening?

One of Frankfurt's colleagues comments thus:

"The most audacious of the ancient alchemists desired to transmute lead into gold. They never succeeded. Who would have known that they should have started not with a base metal, but with bullshit? Harry Frankfurt offers a philosophical analysis of bullshit that is golden. The prose by turns employs irony, broad humor, and tongue-in-cheek high seriousness while at the same time manages to have a rigorous logical coherence that is always impressive. One leaves the essay not merely thinking it was a delight. One leaves it realizing that one has engaged the accomplishment of a great analyst and thinker."--William Chester Jordan, Professor of History, Princeton University

Now I don't know if Princeton University Press is bullshitting us or not, but they...

"... highly recommend this poignant piece to those intelligent enough to understand its import to the current time — and no doubt for centuries to come. Especially if one reads newspapers (or newsgroups), watches television "news" (or talk-shows), or listens to "experts" (or politicians) with that pernicious tendency to press the "Mute" button on the Critical Faculty ..."

Well I'm reflexively suspicious of anything coming out of an Ivy Leaguel Liberal elite institution such as this, but I can't wait to read Professor Frankfurt's work.

If you're on the fence and not quite prepared to make such a donation to an ILLEI, you will surely appreciate the ten minute interview with Prof. Frankfurt, absolutely free of charge! In it you will hear Prof. Frankfurt provide an example of what he considers a paradigm example of bullshit: John Kerry's war hero claims!

So people, go right to Amazon, buy ten copies, and send them to your favorite bullshitters. Maybe they'll take the hint.

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