Essay title: The Bullshitter
Professor Noam Mor
April 26, 2006
Harry G. Frankfurt writes, in what must surely be the most eyebrow-raising opener in modern philosophical writing style. “Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted.” Bullshitting, as he notes, is not exactly lying, and bullshit remains bullshit whether its true or false. The essence of bullshit, Frankfurt decides, is that it is produced without any concern for the truth. Bullshit neednt be false: “The bullshitter is faking things. But this does not mean that he necessarily gets them wrong.” The bullshitters fakery consists not in misrepresenting a state of affairs but in concealing his own indifference to the truth of what he says. The liar, by contrast, is concerned with the truth, in a perverse sort of fashion, he wants to lead us away from it. As Frankfurt sees it, the liar and the person who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides of the same game. The bullshitter wishes out of this game altogether. Unlike the liar and the person who tells the truth, he is not guided in what he says by his beliefs about the way things are. And that, Frankfurt says, is what makes bullshit so dangerous: it unfits a person form really telling the truth.
An example of bullshit is not at all uncommon to hear of people “bullshitting” a job interview, or attributing their performance in an examination to their ability. In this sense, bullshitting walks the line between extemporaneous speaking and lying outright. It is also common for people to bullshit friends or acquaintances, by spinning an elaborate tall tale. The object here is to make the bullshittees look foolish by dint of their gullibility in accepting the bullshit as fact. Bullshit does not necessarily have to be a complete fabrication; with only basic knowledge about a topic, bullshit is often used to make the audience believe that one knows far more about the