Thursday, April 14, 2005


Bullsh*t on Bullsh*t?

Phantom Scribbler posts a delightful review of philosopher Harry Frankfurt's On Bullshit here.

I needed this review in order to reach a judgment whether the tiny volume -- a bound essay harking back to 18th century pamphlet-publishing -- may well be worth the $6 or so price on Amazon and the prodigious effort of reading all 67 pages.

Phantom quotes her favorite paragraph from the book, from which I'll quote my favorite sentence:
"the phenomenon [of bullshit] itself is so vast and amorphous that no crisp and perspicuous analysis of its concept can avoid being procrustean."
Okay. I could imagine wanting to read a clear-eyed philosopher writing about bullshit as a social phenomenon, as a scourge of our civic mind, or some such. Am I to understand that Frankfurt has written a witty trifle, a mere pomo demo of bullshit? I sure don't want to spend time reading some philosophy professor's idea of a joke.

I tried to decode Phantom's review to get the answer to this question -- is Frankfurt just giving us some BS on BS? -- but ended up lost in a maze of irony.


Ah, I couldn't help it. What if you spend the $6 and you don't like it and it's ALL MY FAULT? The pressure, I tell you.

On the first read, I enjoyed it, although there's a long digression about "humbug" that was not half so entertaining as I would wish.

On the second read... yawn... what was I saying?

It's really only worth it if it will crack you up to read the word "bullsh*t" in sentences like the one I quoted. If not, then let me give away the ending:

Bullsh*t is distinguished by its entire disregard for reality. As opposed to truth, which seeks to represent reality as it is, and lies, which seek to deny reality as it is. Bullsh*t just doesn't give a sh*t about reality one way or the other.

If that's profound enough to make you give away two lattes worth of your hard-earned income, then so be it.
Wouldn't the Public Library have a copy of this available for loan?
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