Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aimless Reading: The F's, Part 21 (Harry G. Frankfurt)

On Bullshit
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Frankfurt, Harry G.
On Bullshit

I want to say I got this as a review copy, and I think I may have. But I am feeling this strange kind of embarrassment about owning this book.

I am pretty sure I did not buy it, but I may have requested a review copy; the cause of my embarrassment being that I must have actually wanted to read it; this is compounded further by the fact that I actually did read it.

On Bullshit is a rather silly book, probably on some level intended as such by its author, an emeritus philosophy professor at Princeton, about Americans' willingness, nay, sheer joy, at being deceived, and our complicity in the culture of deception we have created.

It's all written down in a very cool Aristotelian tone that begins with the definition of the term and is followed by the delineation of a multi-part argument leading to a conclusion. It's not funny; it's just kind of dull. I guess I must have liked the title.

I wish there were enough money around to publish compact little poetry books in hardcover likes this one. I like the format very much.

from On Bullshit

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.

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