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date: 22 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In his short article “On Bullshit” (1986, republished as a book in 2005), Harry Frankfurt diagnoses a distinctive problem of contemporary culture: that so much of it is bullshit. Today, bullshit abounds in advertising, politics, the media, and the academy; for this, Frankfurt blames the mass media, advertising, the party political system, and some currents in academic thought (notably postmodernism). More than diagnose a widespread problem, however, in “On Bullshit” Frankfurt develops a theoretical account of the nature of bullshit. In his account, Frankfurt holds that bullshit is, like lying, a dishonest assertion; however, he makes clear how bullshitting is different from lying and holds (startlingly) that bullshit is more dishonest than lying. In this chapter I consider bullshit as a distinct perversion of assertion next to lying. I hold that understanding bullshit and lying as perversions of assertion sheds light on assertion and how it functions.

Keywords: bullshit, belief, norms of assertion, lying, Frankfurt​

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