On Bullshit

  • by Harry G. Frankfurt
  • Narrated by George Wilson
  • 1 hrs and 0 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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What the Critics Say

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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.
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- Art Grrrl

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.
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- brenty

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-27-2005
  • Publisher: Recorded Books