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On Truth

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  619 Ratings  ·  77 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, 112 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Knopf (first published 2006)
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Sep 23, 2015 Keith rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
I don't write many reviews for books to which I give less than three stars; in fact, I rarely rate books that low at all. But this was fairly ridiculous.

I found this by accident in my local library because it was at the end of a shelf near another book I wanted to read, and I resolved to read it next because I enjoyed his earlier On Bullshit so very much. In the end, however, it became clear to me that Frankfurt is far more familiar with bullshit than with truth.

Basically, the entire, relative
Lauren Smith
Nov 22, 2010 Lauren Smith rated it it was ok
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
Sep 08, 2014 Shawna rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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
Man O'neal
Nov 19, 2012 Man O'neal rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
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 liked it
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
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
Gregg Sapp
Oct 19, 2015 Gregg Sapp rated it liked it
“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.” Thus does Frankfurt, an ethical philosopher, criticize post-modernist relativism and its legions of skeptics and cynics. After publishing his essay “On Bullshit,” wherein he deplores the prevalence and influence of bombastic insincerity in our society, Frankfurt realized that he needed to elaborate upon the value of its alternative, which is truth ...more
Jun 23, 2016 Ari rated it liked it
"If you like On Bullshit"

Without realizing it, I have become a fan of Prof. Harry G. Frankfurt's work, especially since "The Reasons of Love", "Taking Ourselves Seriously And Getting It Right", to the little gem "On Bullshit", I am enticed by not only the clarity of thoughts but the encouragement of virtues and noble motives. "On Truth" is another tiny book like "On Bullshit", after a reading of it, it could even be named as a continuation of the latter. From the point of view as a general reade
From early on, it became clear that this book was less subtle than its daringly named predecessor, On Bullshit. The two are linked, of course, and Frankfurt works his way into a discussion of why we should care about Truth through its famous/infamous cousin topic, Bullshit. It is not until the last two chapters, however -- especially the clever commentary about Shakespeare's Sonnet 138, "My love swears that she is made of truth", and its deceiving/accepting lovers -- that this volume rises to th ...more
Mar 02, 2008 Stephan rated it did not like it
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
Mar 27, 2011 Anna Maria Ballester Bohn rated it really liked it
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
Oct 29, 2014 David Teachout rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
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
Tom Horton
Sep 23, 2013 Tom Horton rated it liked it
Hoping for profound, got practical instead.
Apr 10, 2014 Jien rated it liked it
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.
Mar 03, 2016 Lauren rated it really liked it
A follow up to Dr. Frankfurt’s On Bullshit, On Truth is a compact argument on truth and why it matters, both to individuals and societies. Some will probably take umbrage to Dr. Frankfurt’s dismissal of post-modernism and its ‘facts are relative’ stance, but as someone educated in the post-postmodernist world of higher education, I very much enjoyed it. Much as I enjoyed On Bullshit, I think I enjoyed On Truth even more. Recommended.
Aug 04, 2016 Tom rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I thought this would be interesting, but never really got engaged with the writing. I don't think I am cut out for philosophical writing, even when reduced to its most conversational forms. This one never really held my attention, and did not seem particularly illumination. But if truth, and why it matters, were so simple to articulate human beings probably would not continue to ponder it over the course of millennia.
Todd Stockslager
Jun 15, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it it was amazing
Truth matters

A followup essay by the author of On Bullshit, this one addresses truth from the same "philosophical fireside chat" approach. Frankfurt explains the benefits of truth, both in the form of particular statements of fact about reality, and in the form of Truth as a Platonic other.

He explains concisely why truth matters in 100 pages that can be read in an hour. Keep both books handy.
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
Oct 26, 2014 Kyle Morrison rated it really liked it
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."
Evan Micheals
Jun 07, 2015 Evan Micheals rated it liked it
A book about truth as a concept. How it differs from facts, and the importance of truth if we want to live authentically in reality. A recipe for responding to moral relativism. Scholarly and hard going, but like anything hard it is worthwhile. Another tool as I strive towards an authentic life.
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.

Apr 24, 2008 Alexander rated it really liked it
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
Ryan Bell
Aug 24, 2015 Ryan Bell rated it liked it
Clearly written, with moments of real insight. Much of it was plainly obvious. You can only do so much in 100 miniature pages, but there is much left unsaid.
Jarrod Jenkins
Nov 20, 2008 Jarrod Jenkins rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Sep 16, 2011 Patrick rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed, philosophy, 2011
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
Lukas op de Beke
Jan 20, 2015 Lukas op de Beke rated it really liked it
Any book in which postmodernism is put down should be regarded as valuable to the world.
Nov 24, 2015 Carolyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: a-good-one-yes
Just like his "On BS" book this one too has quite a few...Truths in it.
Pavol Hardos
Apr 17, 2016 Pavol Hardos rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 31, 2008 Sharon rated it really liked it
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.
May 03, 2011 Aaron rated it really liked it
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.
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Harry G. Frankfurt is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University.
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“Civilizations... cannot flourish if they are beset with troublesome infections of mistaken beliefs.” 3 likes
“Love is nothing but Joy with the accompanying idea of an external cause (Ethics, part III, proposition 13, scholium).” 3 likes
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