Dr. Regan Lance Reitsma
In On Bullshit, Harry G. Frankfurt, a professor at Princeton University discusses the concept of bullshit from his standpoint. He begins his essay by stating, “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit” (117). Since Frankfurt doubts that “most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it” (117), he provides a theoretical understanding of bullshit. The big question being asked throughout this argument is when, if ever, is bullshitting seriously morally wrong and why? And what exactly is so important about caring about, respecting, and telling the truth? Aspects of bullshit are discussed with reference to the Oxford English Dictionary, Wittgenstein, and Saint Augustine. There are three points made throughout the essay that seem to be crucially important- the difference between lying and bullshitting, the question of why there is so much bullshit in society today, and an analysis of sincerity.
Frankfurt begins his search for the meaning of bullshit by comparing it to the word “humbug,” and referencing the work The Prevalence of Humbug by Max Black. Black gives the definition of humbug: “deceptive misrepresentation, short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed, of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes.” (118). By examining the definition of a related term, Frankfurt begins his argument