Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

A fond remembrance of the 2005 book, “On Bullsh*t”

arroba Email

A friend whisked this one under the door and fled (but we think we know who it is; never mind):

One of the most unlikely philosophical bestsellers in recent decades was retired Princeton University professor Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit. Published in 2005, it remained on the New York Times best seller list for 27 weeks…

For bullshit to thrive, in other words, people must be convinced that there is no objective truth. One indirect means of advancing such an argument is to convert all argument into what logicians call ad hominem attacks. Instead of engaging a point of view on its merits, one simply assails the individual who holds it, impugning his character or motives. Consider the source, the argument goes—if the advocate is flawed, then his positions must be flawed. Such attacks have become a regular feature of contemporary political discourse, often descending to the level of mere name-calling…

The Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan foresaw such a situation when he coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” As political discourse moves from print media such as newspapers to broadcast media such as television, what a candidate has to say can be quickly superseded by how a candidate looks. As discourse moves from television to Twitter, it can be further degraded into mere flamboyance. What matters is no longer speaking the truth but simply attracting and holding attention. Getting it right gives way to getting noticed.

Richard Gunderman, “Coping with Bullsh*t” at Law & Liberty

Seems timely.

One can’t help wondering, if “attracting and holding attention” are the key goals, should we be surprised that the Raging Woke choose to smash statues rather than argue points?

See also: At Scientific American: Falsifiability in science is a myth. If propositions in science cannot be falsified by evidence, they aren’t propositions in science. They are simply things many scientists believe for a variety of reasons.

This isn't new. It's denser now because everyone's participation is recorded for all to read. In previous eras ordinary people just talked instead of writing. But at the level of politicians and newspapers, attacks have always overpowered truth. Political speeches and editorials from 100 years ago were just as bad, with a FEW notable exceptions like Harding, who described reality accurately and used reason to propose solutions. polistra

Leave a Reply