(Guest post by Jeb Bishop)
Over a beer the other day I read Harry Frankfurt’s essay On Bullshit, published by Princeton University Press. Frankfurt was a professor of philosophy at Princeton and this essay apparently circulated underground for quite a while before its publication, acquiring a semi-legendary status.
The humor inherent in the idea of an academic approach to this topic is obvious, but the book (a fairly quick read) is not a joke, being in fact a serious attempt at “the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit,” or an articulation of the “structure of its concept.” I found it absorbing and thought-provoking, especially in light of the fact that, as its very first sentence states, “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.”
But the reason I was moved to post about it was simply that I was so delighted by the following sentence, which in its style and perspicacity puts me in mind of Mark Twain:
“The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.”
You just want to cheer a sentence like that.
(It occurs to me to hope that I am not breaking any posting rules here. What can I say, I like the word “bullshit.”)