Harry G. Frankfurt
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Having outlined a theory of bullshit and falsehood, Harry G. Frankfurt turns to what lies beyond them: the truth, a concept not as obvious as some might expect.
Our culture's devotion to bullshit may seem much stronger than our apparently halfhearted attachment to truth. Some people (professional thinkers) won't even acknowledge "true" and "false" as meaningful categories, and even those who claim to love truth cause the rest of us to wonder whether they, too, aren't simply full of it. Practically speaking, many of us deploy the truth only when absolutely necessary, often finding alternatives to be more saleable, and yet somehow civilization seems to be muddling along. But where are we headed? Is our fast and easy way with the facts actually crippling us? Or is it "all good"? Really, what's the use of truth, anyway?
With the same leavening wit and commonsense wisdom that animates his pathbreaking work On Bullshit, Frankfurt encourages us to take another look at the truth: there may be something there that is perhaps too plain to notice but for which we have a mostly unacknowledged yet deep-seated passion. His book will have sentient beings across America asking, "The truth—why didn't I think of that?"
their claim that there is no objectively meaningful or worthwhile distinction to be made between what is true and what is false. I am also going to avoid the forbidding complexities that overhang any conscientious effort to define the notions of truth and falsity. This would likely be another discouraging and unnecessarily distracting task. So I will simply take for granted the more or less universally accepted commonsense ways of understanding these notions. We all know what it means to tell
but that is, nevertheless, unquestionably pertinent. It is the thought that truth often possesses very considerable practical utility. Any society that manages to be even minimally functional must have, it seems to me, a robust appreciation of the endlessly protean utility of truth. After all, how could a society that cared too little for truth make sufficiently well-informed judgments and decisions concerning the most suitable disposition of its public business? How could it possibly flourish,
is effective in accomplishing this manipulation. Correspondingly, they are more or less indifferent to whether what they say is true or whether it is false. In that book, I also addressed a number of other issues. I explored the distinction, which is fundamentally important though generally left unexamined, between bullshit and lies. I made a few tentative suggestions concerning how to account for the extraordinary prevalence and persistence of bullshit in our culture. And I argued that
respect that we ordinarily assign to fact and to truth, the postmodernists’ view is that in the end the assignment of those entitlements is just up for grabs. It is simply a matter, they insist, of how you look at things. Needless to say, all of us do quite often, conscientiously and confidently, identify certain propositions as true and others as false. Postmodernist thinkers are undaunted, however, by the undeniably ubiquitous acceptance of this practice. Somewhat more surprisingly, they are
the character of reality itself. The facts—the true nature of reality—are the final and incontrovertible recourse of inquiry. They dictate and support an ultimately decisive resolution and rebuttal of all uncertainties and doubts. When I was a child, I often felt oppressed by the chaotic jumble of implausible notions and beliefs that I felt various adults were attempting to foist on me. My own dedication to truth originated, so far as I am able to recall, in the liberating conviction that once I