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On Truth

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  509 ratings  ·  64 reviews
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,
Hardcover, 101 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published 2006)
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Lauren Smith
On Truth exists largely as a footnote to Harry G. Frankfurt's earlier work, On Bullshit. An excellent example of a concise, clear argument, On Bullshit was a brilliant essay on the subject of bullshitting - of communicating without any regard for truth. Bullshitters, Frankfurt argues, are distinct from liars, because liars at least know what the truth is, even though they choose to contradict it. Bullshitters on the other hand don't know and don't care about the truth. They communicate with a sp ...more
If you have to choose between reading On Bullshit and On Truth, read this one. It's more accessible and more pungent at the same time. Very much worth my time to read, then re-read, then read again as I worked to understand all that is in this small book. What Frankfurt argues is not that truth exists or matters, but that we must be both responsible and devoted to the truth lest we hurt ourselves, others, or the whole of society by creating a world that is essentially too small for us. "How, the ...more
Billie Pritchett
Although I think the subject of Harry Frankfurt's book is immensely interesting, this book wasn't. Frankfurt argues that truth is important because it is useful in people's lives and that the discovery of truth provides people with an understanding of the limitations of reality. The argumentation is sound, but the book could have been more substantive. For example, he could have given detailed cases that demonstrate the usefulness of truth and the limitations people can discover by virtue of und ...more
Man O'neal
Well written. But as a philosophical argument I felt as though this was rather pointless and without surprise. When you really break it down, you may find that this is just academic rambling with no real direction or ultimate purpose.
May 05, 2014 Helen rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Adults and teens.
Recommended to Helen by: No-one.
This is a somewhat interesting volume on aspects of the truth. Unfortunately, it was for me a rather dull book, as it was mostly about abstractions. It was relatively easy to read, not conceptually difficult, but just dull.

I enjoyed reading the bit about the lovers in a sonnet by Shakespeare who lie to each other for their own reasons, and how each knows the other is lying, and goes along with the lies, which somehow binds them closer to each other, since this story demonstrated that sometimes
This is a sorry excuse for a book. It's short, the logic is not rigorous, and it only sells because of the title and the fact that it's the sequel to "on bullshit".

The book tries to argue against relativism. I think it's a worthy goal, and I am also against relativism, but the way he goes about it is very irritating.
Anna Maria Ballester Bohn
I love this philosopher. Clear, to the point, you could mistake much of what he says for obvious, but it isn't, precisely because it seems to be. Have you ever thought about why truth is important, and why it is important that we believe it exists, and actively look for it?
David Teachout
The follow-up to "On Bullshit," Frankfurt steps back from the more humorous, tongue-in-cheek tone. I think this may be due less with the subject matter and more concerned with the reason why he decided to write a sequel of sorts. The sheer wonder at why anyone wouldn't care that truth and the pursuit of it is worthwhile permeates throughout. With this comes a pervasive and urgent demand for people to see the world and their lives not merely as something where truth is an academic exercise but tr ...more
There’s a good argument to be made for truth, I don’t think Frankfurt quite makes it. He drops some key points in favor of more peripheral tangents.

Perhaps I am simply spoiled by the more direct and straightforward writings I usually read when I am in the mood to explore philosophical concepts. Or maybe, having not read “On Bullshit” took away from the full impact of this work for me.

I was hoping to find a new perspective on the idea of “truth” when I picked this up, but in the end, I did not.
This book is basically a coda to Frankfurt's widely and deservedly popular essay 'On Bullshit'. The present essay -equal in length to the previous one - continues to explain in layman's terms why truth as such matters, i.e. why liars and bullshitters are such a troubling phenomenon. It is nowhere near as fabulous nor as inventive as On Bullshit, nevertheless it is necessary as a sort of mental flossing. Recommended by 4 out of 5 epistemologists tired by your relativist bullshit.
Mar 19, 2011 Joyce marked it as to-read
Summary: Frankfurt takes the position that a deplorable mistake would be unleashed abroad if there should develop in today's world a widespread lack of caring for the value and importance of truth. He finds a disregard for truth endemic among publicists and politicians, but he has discovered a similar attitude growing among authors. Frankfurt works with a broad canvas here, averring, A society that is recklessly and persistently remiss in supporting and encouraging truth is bound to decline. Wit ...more
Kyle Morrison
Good short read, my first from this author. Book conveys the meaning and importance of truth. In addition discusses the negative affects of lies, and ignorance in society.

"If we have no respect for the distinction between true and false, we may as well kiss our much-vaunted rationality good-bye."
This brief treatise isn't entirely without value, but _On Bullshit_ was much better. The following reviews really sum up my thoughts on _On Truth_: Helen's posted 5/5/14; Man O'Neal's posted 11/19/12; Lauren Smith's posted 11/22/10; and Billie Pritchett's posted 11/12/09.

frankfurt lucidly and tersely expounds on the philosophical notion of truth. although his arguments against a post-modern notion of truth are cogent, there are premises of dubitable origin and issues left unaddressed. for example, one can't simply assume that if there is a state of affairs that factually obtains to the world that we can therefore know what this state of affairs is. the reflections also fall short of engaging a perspectival notion of truth, which, i believe, may very well undermi ...more
Jarrod Jenkins
Important ideas, difficult to fully grasp.

Memorable quotes:

"[W:]hatever benefits and rewards it may sometimes be possible to attain by bullshitting, by dissembling, or through sheer mendacity, societies cannot afford to tolerate anyone or anything that fosters a slovenly indifference to the distinction between true and false. Much less can they indulge the shabby, narcissistic pretense that being true to the facts is less important than being "true to oneself." If there is any attitude that is i
Funny, pithy and dead-on accurate, this work was a bit more serious than its predecessor On Bullshit as it managed to wipe the floor with the train-wreck that is post-modernism, demonstrates why a society that goes out of its way to ignore the truth will fail, and just what the heck is so important about being truthful anyways. The only complaint I had about the work is Frankfurt's seeming obsession with being a bit too cutesy at certain points. Other than that, an amazing amount of material is ...more
Any book in which postmodernism is put down should be regarded as valuable to the world.
Oct 31, 2008 Sharon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in philosophy
Sure, truth matters, but why? Frankfurt goes pretty methodically through all the reasons: personal, political, social, and psychological. In the end, a notion of truth is necessary to even have a concept of reality. I'm not a philosopher and only am amateur at evaluating philosophy, but I enjoyed this book and it made me think of all the ways the idea of truth affects my overall and everyday life. Also, remember, there are truths and truth.
Not as challenging or as boisterous as "On Bullshit," but Frankfurt lays down a solid foundation for truth as the cornerstone of a personal philosophy. At its core he states that humans rarely look at themselves and their circumstances in a forthright and truthful manner and this in turn causes us distress. I can see readers misenterpereting this as a light self-help book, but there is some good elementary and utilitarian philosophy here.
Brad Lyerla
This is a companion to Frankfurt's clever essay ON BULLSH-T. There, he argued that too much bullsh-t is harmful to society. Here, he argues that societies and individuals should care about the truth.

This is a polemic and the arguments are not original. But ON TRUTH is a good read. Frankfurt is smart and his prose is as crisp and clear as anything you will read. It's nice to read things that make sense and this essay does.
Kirk Neely
Apr 09, 2007 Kirk Neely rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people concerned with society
its sort of a sequal to On Bullshit. It examines why bullshit is so harmful to us. The first book just examined the difference between truth, lies, and bullshit. But this details what truth is and why truth is so necessary. Not only for engineers and doctors and other professions that require accurate portrayal of facts, but for all of us. It's not quite as funny as On Bullshit, but it is still very good.
Frankfurt's basic point seems to be that pragmatically speaking, we need there to be such a thing as truth. Not the one great truth, just simple truth i.e., the ground is wet or the towel is dry. We need there to be such a thing as truth (as opposed to all things being relative) in order to make informed, fact-based decisions. I agree with the sentiment, but I don't think it merits a 101 page essay.
Carlos Burga
Having been secretly intimidated all my life by anything to do with philosophy I found Frankfurt's books thoroughly enjoyable and disarming. I mean what could possibly be more disarming than having a book titled "On Bullshit". It is this modern usage of philosophy that I find incredibly interesting and novel in Frankfurt and I strongly recommend his books.
I said "Eh" about On Bullshit and here too, I find myself saying "Eh." Kind of interesting, and I can't complain about the investment of time. Also sort of rambling, not easy to get through, and some of the points are kind of self-evident.
Emre Ergin
7. bölümü hariç, pek bullshit. sanki yazar bir önceki kitabıyla bunu tanımlamış gibi. (gerçi daha okumadım onu.)yani bu derece kısa bir kitap, ve özetleseniz daha dörtte üçü okham'ın tanrılarına kurban edilecek gibi.

7. bölüme ise şuradan ulaşabilirsiniz:
Greg Heaton
The first 3/4 aptly justifies my irascible desire to care about things as they are. The last 1/4 where he tries to justify truth as an ideal, without having first identified how to find truth, is dicey. And the section where he analyzes one of the Shakespeare's sonnets seems pointless at best.
Read it for a book club. It is about ethics or perhaps about good will. It felt like a religious or spiritual book and is very moving in its argument. However it has no philosophic rigor and I'm not sure that it's arguments really stand up.
i picked this book up at city lights in sf, ca. i took it to vesuvio and devoured it. i sat next to a vase filled with flowers, a shot and a beer. it happened to be jack kerouac's can be interesting of you aren't afraid to live it
if we lose respect for truth we cease striving after it, we are more creatures of truth than we admit, ignorance and error have no value, lack of respect for the value of truth will ultimately cost us the very powers that give us the power to create
concise, common language, common sense arguments for the value of truth. Though, it was actually about the value of specific truths rather than truth itself, and Frankfurt's attempt to consolidate the two left much to be desired.
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Harry G. Frankfurt is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University.
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“To establish and to sustain an advanced culture, we need to avoid being debilitated either by error or by ignorance. We need to know—and, of course, we must also understand how to make productive use of—a great many truths.” 0 likes
“We cannot think of ourselves as creatures whose rationality endows us with an especially significant advantage over others—indeed, we cannot think of ourselves as rational creatures at all—unless we think of ourselves as creatures who recognize that facts, and true statements about the facts, are indispensable in providing us with reasons for believing (or for not believing) various things and for taking (or for not taking) various actions. If we have no respect for the distinction between true and false, we may as well kiss our much-vaunted “rationality” good-bye.” 0 likes
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