On Bullshit

Harry G. Frankfurt

Book cover

Borrowed from my dad, read on a subway ride and a lunch break. Cute, but not so compelling. Really, it should have been a paper, not a book.

Although Frankfurt brings up a number of real and hypothetical examples, it’s interesting to me that he neglected to mention the form in which I’ve most commonly heard it, namely, the card game “B.S.” (Perhaps he’s not aware of it?) It seems not really to conform to Frankfurt’s description of bullshit, in that the titular act is to place cards face-down and claim that they are something they are not–which clearly falls into the category of a lie (the person doing the assertion believes that the assertion is not true). In that the person doing the assertion is making a claim with verifiable truth-value, it’s different from bluffing, which Frankfurt considers as a close cousin of bullshit. On the other hand, perhaps it doesn’t really count as a lie since the person has effectively precommitted himself to making the statement (by playing the game) prior to the revelation of its truth-value.

My Goodreads rating: 2 stars