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On Bullshit Hardcover – January 30, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 730 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit," Harry G. Frankfurt writes, in what must surely be the most eyebrow-raising opener in modern philosophical prose. "Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted." This compact little book, as pungent as the phenomenon it explores, attempts to articulate a theory of this contemporary scourge--what it is, what it does, and why there's so much of it. The result is entertaining and enlightening in almost equal measure. It can't be denied; part of the book's charm is the puerile pleasure of reading classic academic discourse punctuated at regular intervals by the word "bullshit." More pertinent is Frankfurt's focus on intentions--the practice of bullshit, rather than its end result. Bullshitting, as he notes, is not exactly lying, and bullshit remains bullshit whether it's true or false. The difference lies in the bullshitter's complete disregard for whether what he's saying corresponds to facts in the physical world: he "does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."

This may sound all too familiar to those of use who still live in the "reality-based community" and must deal with a world convulsed by those who do not. But Frankfurt leaves such political implications to his readers. Instead, he points to one source of bullshit's unprecedented expansion in recent years, the postmodern skepticism of objective truth in favor of sincerity, or as he defines it, staying true to subjective experience. But what makes us think that anything in our nature is more stable or inherent than what lies outside it? Thus, Frankfurt concludes, with an observation as tiny and perfect as the rest of this exquisite book, "sincerity itself is bullshit." --Mary Park

Review

"Terrific. . . . Has anything truer ever been written?"---William Watson, Montreal Gazette

"Professor Frankfurt concludes that bullshit is a process rather than an end product. . . . If you are fed up with hype, spin and bullshit this book will provide insight - and therapy.", Australian Doctor

"Frankfurt's book should be required reading for anyone whose speech or writing are intended for public consumption. Despite his subject, he is definitely not full of it."---Kevin Wood, The Daily Yomiuri

"Listed on the 2017 War on the Rocks Holiday Reading List"

"If you want to read a succinct, stylish piece of argument that will make you think far beyond the points it makes, you could do no better than invest ten dollars on Professor Frankfurt's handsomely bound essay."---Christopher Jary, British Army Review

"[Frankfurt] tries, with the help of Wittgenstein, Pound, St. Augustine and the spy novelist Eric Ambler, among others, to ask some of the preliminary questions--to define the nature of a thing recognized by all but understood by none. . . . What is bullshit, after all? Mr. Frankfurt points out it is neither fish nor fowl. Those who produce it certainly aren't honest, but neither are they liars, given that the liar and the honest man are linked in their common, if not identical, regard for the truth."---Peter Edidin, New York Times

"On Bullshit offers a tightly focused, telling critique of a political and cultural climate that seems positively humid with mendacity, obfuscation, evasion and illusion."---Steven Winn, San Francisco Chronicle

"A #1 New York Times Bestseller 2005"

"Harry G. Frankfurt, 2017 Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecturer, American Council of Learned Societies"

"[On Bullshit's] calm, clearheaded deconstruction of everyday deceit is without parallel."---Gordon Phinn, Books in Canada

Product details

  • Item Weight : 3.99 ounces
  • Hardcover : 67 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0691122946
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0691122946
  • Product Dimensions : 4.1 x 0.5 x 6.2 inches
  • Publisher : Princeton University Press; 1st Edition (January 30, 2005)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 730 ratings
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