Saturday, December 24, 2005

On Bullshit

I just finished reading Harry G. Frankfurt's On Bullshit -- well, "finished" is a bit of a misnomer, as it was more like started and finished within an hour. It's a fun read, but not really worth the $10; it's hard to justify charging that much for a clever essay (not to mention the absurdity of binding a single essay as a hard cover book).

Frankfurt, an emeritus professor of philosophy at Princeton, inspired by the amount of bullshit spewed forth in modern society, sets out to determine what makes a statement bullshit. He concludes that something is bullshit when a person makes a declaration with no regard to the known facts and current evidence (whether or not they think they are lying is irrelevant). Does this remind you of anything or anyone? I found one particular passage quite fitting given the recently concluded proceedings in Dover:

"Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person's obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled -- whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others -- to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant."


Post a Comment

<< Home