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On Bullshit | [Harry G. Frankfurt]

On Bullshit

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bulls**t. 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 bulls**t and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what bulls**t is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.
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Publisher's Summary

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bulls**t. 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 bulls**t and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what bulls**t is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, as Harry Frankfurt writes, "we have no theory".

Frankfurt, one of the world's most influential moral philosophers, attempts to build such a theory here. With his characteristic combination of philosophical acuity, psychological insight, and wry humor, Frankfurt proceeds by exploring how bulls**t and the related concept of humbug are distinct from lying. He argues that bulls**tters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bulls**t need not be untrue at all.

Rather, bulls**tters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bulls**t can take many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner's capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bulls**t is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

©2005 Harry G. Frankfurt; (P)2005 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

"Frankfurt's deadpan tone gives a comic flavor to many of his observations." (San Francisco Chronicle)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

2.7 (256 )
5 star
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3.2 (29 )
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3.3 (30 )
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    sara jane milwaukee, wi 07-18-05
    sara jane milwaukee, wi 07-18-05 Member Since 2005

    art grrrl

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    "The philosophy of bullshit"

    This is an extremely academic book. Frankfurt, a Harvard professor, is looking to define very specifically what is meant by the term "bullshit." It is only an hour long, but it is very dense with explanation. It's a very challenging listen. I had to listen to it several times to really appreciate it. The humor is extremely dry and comes from the treatment of the subject, which is very philosophical. If you like Plato and Aristotle, you'll love On Bullshit. If you're looking for ranting and wise-cracking, this is not the book for you.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    brenty United States 03-23-13
    brenty United States 03-23-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Surprise ending!"

    Honestly, if you are a big audiobook connoisseur this is probably far from what you are used to hearing or might expect. It is fairly dry, yet humourous; short, yet thoughtful; but, ultimately, this is an incredibly self-aware work. I wish I could be more specific than that, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone else who might not only thoroughly enjoy this essay, but also be in on the joke.

    The first time I listened to this, I did not enjoy it at all; but since I was in a hospital waiting room at the time, waiting for my appendix to burst, I decided I should give it another chance -- and I'm glad I did! I feel like I had an excuse for not giving it a fair hearing initially, so perhaps others will do the same in the future.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    H. M. Behrens Hazen, ND USA 05-29-12
    H. M. Behrens Hazen, ND USA 05-29-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Understanding Male Tendency to Shoot the Bull"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    If you are ready for a college level discussion of the meaning of bullshit and its uses, go for it. If you are looking for a humorous take on this area of human conversation, or attempting to improve your bullshit skills, take a pass.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Harry G. Frankfurt? Why or why not?

    Yes, I would try another book because I enjoy learning and Mr. Frankfurt's book was well researched.


    What about George Wilson’s performance did you like?

    Voice was easy on the ears and conversational in tone which enhanced the educational aspect of the topic.


    Could you see On Bullshit being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    This one will never be a movie


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brett oxford, MS, USA 06-11-05
    Brett oxford, MS, USA 06-11-05 Member Since 2005
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    "This book is bulls**t"

    I honestly could not wait for the book to finish. You would think the author would explain why there is so much BS in the world today but this book only defines what types of BS there are. The definitions are long and drawn out and sound like a bunch of psychobabble. Don't waste your time.

    12 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Blurr Las Vegas 01-19-11
    Blurr Las Vegas 01-19-11 Member Since 2009

    http://www.iamtheblurr.com

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An Excellent Acadmemic Analysis"

    Amongst the poor reviews for this book, I'm just going to say that those people probably expected something less than what this book actually is and probably aren't disciplined enough in academics to be able to appreciate this title.

    That said, what you should expect is effectively an hour long and very detailed lecture on what "bullshit" is, how it works, how it perpetuates, why it's different than lying, and what some of the tenants of the practitioners of "bullshit" ("bullshiters") are.

    This wasn't meant to be funny or humorous literature even though the title may make some people think otherwise. That isn't to say that there isn't a degree of comedy which stems from is the ironic fact that this a very serious work on a generally non-serious subject. It's as if Stephen Hawking wrote a book on the science of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with all of the seriousness of his other works.

    If you're interested in the psychology related to bullshit, this is a great title; just be prepared to take notes if you actually want to retain the data, it is thick and verbose :)

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Largo, FL, USA 05-27-05
    Mary Largo, FL, USA 05-27-05
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    "Bullsh*t"

    I heard about this book on the Daily Show, and while it gets off to a dry start, it definitely has its own style of wit.

    25 of 42 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. J. Brailsford Shanghai, China 01-10-06
    M. J. Brailsford Shanghai, China 01-10-06 Member Since 2005

    Monk E.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a complete waste of time"

    The one good thing about the book is that it is short. Otherwise it would have been even more of a waste of time. He trys to be philosophical but just ends up sounding like an a very unimaginative bore.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Lakewood, CO, USA 07-12-05
    Stephen Lakewood, CO, USA 07-12-05
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    "An Intellectual Sense of the Subject"

    If you're looking for rock'em-sock'em bulls**t, turn on cable news. If you want a marvelous professor's take on the subject, I recommend this Audiobook. The dryness of the narrative on this very timely subject just adds to the humor. And, it fits nicely on one CD.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Omaha, NE, USA 07-08-05
    David Omaha, NE, USA 07-08-05 Member Since 2001
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    "Didn't live up to its hype"

    I felt that I was the victim of bullshit. There were some interested insights, but it was mostly a disappointment.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kenneth Moline, IL, USA 07-19-05
    Kenneth Moline, IL, USA 07-19-05
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    "Really Bad"

    You would think that by now, people who make audiobooks would understand that they need to be spoken, not read. This is so dry, I needed to drink a gallon of water by the end of five minutes. Boring is a word that I use to describe things like waiting for my wife while she's shopping, or a 2-hour meeting at work. Boring is too nice a word for this audiobook. I was hoping to get some insight into critical thinking, but I was stunned at just how boring it was. Do you understand? It's BORING.

    6 of 11 people found this review helpful
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