On Bullshitters

One of my male friends in the Philosophy department sent me the following in reply to the latest exchange with the resident troll.

This comes from a stand-alone essay by Harry Frankfurt, “On Bullshit” (Princeton: 2005), which a friend recently lent. It further addresses how B. should be described.

46 It does seem that bullshitting involves a kind of bluff. It is closer to bluffing, surely, than to telling a lie.

48 The bullshitter is faking things. But this does not mean that he necessarily gets them wrong.

51 This involves not merely producing one instance of bullshit; it involves a program of producing bullshit to whatever extent the circumstances require.

52 He is prepared, so far as required, to fake the context as well.

53 This is less a matter of craft than of art. Hence the familiar notion of the “bullshit artist.”

54 Both he and the liar represent themselves falsely as endeavoring to communicate the truth.

55 The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides…is that…the motive guiding and controlling it [his speech] is unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are.

56 He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

60 Through excessive indulgence…a person’s normal habit of attending to the ways things are may become attenuated or lost.

Frankfurt goes on to hypothesize three sources of contemporary bullshitting. The closest to a troll’s desire for recognition is a bullshitter’s denying we can have reliable access to objective reality:

65 a retreat from the discipline required by dedication to the ideal of correctness to a quite different sort of discipline, which is imposed by pursuit of an alternative ideal of sincerity. Rather than seeking primarily to arrive at accurate representations of a common world, the individual turns toward trying to provide honest representations of himself.


Given B’s many self-contradictions on the listserv, surely he’s not attempting sincerity. Just a troll. . . Who’ll, hopefully and presumably, be put in a rightful place after the U adopts a new method of community-postings. As will be the Middle Eastern-looking abductor.

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