05w12:1 The Bullshit Roundup

by timothy. 0 Comments

Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 12 number 1 (the bullshit roundup)

Speaking in an interview with Now Magazine in Dec 1997, John R Saul summed up our state of discourse by referring to that time’s teacher’s strikes:

“It wouldn’t really have taken all that much effort for the teachers’ unions to say, ‘The government says it wants better education — and it’s going to cut $700 million and it’s going to fire teachers. If you want better education, if you want smaller class sizes, that won’t work.’ It’s two sentences! I never heard a union leader say that. The unions talked in corporatist terms, as if they were in a private negotiation with the government.”

(BTW, JRS has a new book coming out in May on the demise of the globalization ideology. I’m pretty excited).

One of the lessons I learned at artschool besides what I was supposed to learn, was how much more effective signage was when it was written as if addressing a human being. The corporate language everywhere drives me nuts, and I tend to see it as patinaed with a glossy layer of bull. Because, as Frankfurt says:

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 are more excessive than 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.

Which brings up today’s GR – the bullshit roundup. As you may already be aware, Princeton philosophy prof Harry Frankfurt has published a book called ‘On Bullshit’, and there has been some stuff about it on the net. – Timothy

On Bullshit | Harry Frankfurt
“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 on The Daily Show | The Daily Show
NOTE: link to Quicktime Video 3.4MB 5’46

Harry Frankfurt Interviews | Princeton University Press
NOTE: Video interviews available in different formats and streams

Defining Bullshit | Timothy Noah
“Enter Harry G. Frankfurt. In the fall 1986 issue of Raritan, Frankfurt, a retired professor of philosophy at Princeton, took a whack at it in an essay titled ‘On Bullshit.’ Frankfurt reprinted the essay two years later in his book The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays. Last month he republished it a second time as a very small book. Frankfurt’s conclusion, which I caught up with in its latest repackaging, is that bullshit is defined not so much by the end product as by the process by which it is created.”

Towards a Marxist Hermeneutics of Total Bullshit | Scott Martens
“I intend to start by sharing what I really think here, then proceding to shed some light on this situation through the application of bovinocoprotics. (From the Latin bovinae – cow, and the Greek κοπρος – feces.) Then, I need to actually start writing. […] we are confronted with the the problem Frankfurt poses at the beginning of his essay: One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. If the Enlightenment has been a war on bullshit, it seems that the bullshit is winning. Orwell, lacking Frankfurt’s work to draw on, actually foreshadows him in 1984: ‘All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers, but they could not afford to encourage any illusion that tended to impair military efficiency. So long as defeat meant the loss of independence, or some other result generally held to be undesirable, the precautions against defeat had to be serious. Physical facts could not be ignored. In philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two and two might make five, but when one was designing a gun or an aeroplane they had to make four. Inefficient nations were always conquered sooner or later, and the struggle for efficiency was inimical to illusions.’ Orwell’s Oceania is not the land of the Big Lie – for the whole point of doublethink is to not lie – but the land of bullshit: A complete disregard for the truth about things and the defense of the processes that sustain that disregard.”
Thanks to Amish Morrell for letting me know about this

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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 23 March 2005 @ 5:18 PM

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