Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Book of the Month
Harry G. Frankfurt
Now, here is a little writing of 67 pages that is absolutely delightful. Frankfurt begins the first sentence of the book by declaring "One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit." At our age we can certainly agree, but do we have a clear understanding of what bullshit is, or why there is so much of it? If that intrigues you, then this is the read for you.
Frankfurt begins by developing a theoretical understanding through philosophical analysis of what it is. He does not consider the misuses of the term in one's everyday vocabulary. Rather, he focuses upon how and why it has become so prevalent, and the distinction between a liar and a bullshitter, given their sincerity when showering us with their thoughts.
The crux of this distinction according to Frankfurt is "Both represent themselves falsely as endeavoring to communicate the truth." Development of this argument makes fascinating reading and has major applications to one's understanding of public officials, talking heads, news reporting, and, unfortunately, friends. Frankfurt suggests that bullshit becomes unavoidable when one is required to talk without knowing what he is talking about. His final thought is that sincerity itself is bullshit given the nature of other things. I will not elaborate further as that would ruin your study of this disease that is so common and has no known cure. But, I can guarantee that by reading this analysis you will be able to distinguish bullshit for what it is, and those who are the main propagators.
Harry G. Frankfurt is a renowned moral philosopher and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, and his work is serious even when considering this, heretofore, somewhat forbidden subject. As always, enjoy!
Reviewed for C-133 Crewmembers by Rick Spencer
To find out more about this delightful book, and buy it for $4.08, click on: ON BULLSHIT