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 ridiculoI 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, relatively short tract reads as a bitter screed against postmodernism. Now, I'm no great fan of that aberrant offshoot of western philosophy myself, in part because it seems to me to eat its own tail if carried out far enough, which I suppose it among the reasons why it has fallen somewhat out of favor in the last decade (apart from having be done to death in pop culture). Nevertheless, it strikes me as ludicrous to dismiss the entire field out of hand, especially if one isn't going to do so well and convincingly.
The author early exhibits a fundamental inability or unwillingness to distinguish between relative and absolute truth, which concept was well established in eastern philosophies over a millennium ago, even if it took longer to penetrate the west. He then goes on to adopt an error from the Ethics of Spinoza to assert an imperative link between Love, Joy, and Truth, and then posits immutable truths while evidently ignoring the fundamentally mutable nature of phenomenological reality, and failing to recognize the influence of culture on the construction and perception of these questionable truths.
Amazingly, he also fails herein to distinguish between bullshit and lying, which was half the substance of his previous book. He then fails to carry his own acknowledgement "that we cannot realistically be confident of our own ability to distinguish truth from falsity" to its necessary conclusion. In what may be a misguided attempt to take a literary turn, he thoroughly misreads Shakespeare's Sonnet 138 ("When my love swears that she is made of truth") in order to completely undermine his own central thesis, and finally wraps up by flattening the spectra of both factuality and utility into an untenable binary system.
I still recommend On Bullshit highly as a primer on the rhetoric of the early 21st century, but I also strongly recommend giving this one a miss unless one needs a cogent example of how a professor emeritus should NOT construct an epistemological argument. It's one "get off my lawn!" short of a rant. However, since it was amusingly well-written in spite of all this, and I did enjoy reading (and mentally arguing with) it a bit, I give it two stars instead of one....more
I only tagged this edition long enough to read Hitch's introduction, which was entertaining enough and provided a couple good insights. Can't count thI only tagged this edition long enough to read Hitch's introduction, which was entertaining enough and provided a couple good insights. Can't count that as enough to call this "read" though, nor to rate it overall. I'll wait an read the Norton edition I have at home in due course....more
Well, the end of the series was a definite improvement over the previous volume. Where the plot seemed to me to be falling apart, most of the threadsWell, the end of the series was a definite improvement over the previous volume. Where the plot seemed to me to be falling apart, most of the threads were finally pulled back in and woven together, though I still found it a bit excessively disjointed—though perhaps that is a deliberate tactic for keeping the reader off balance, like many of the choices Fellini made for his Satyricon. I'm glad I pushed through, and at the same time I don't think I'll be recommending it frequently; not to say it was bad, just that, even though it uses many elements I like, it's not my thing. I don't like ketchup on hot dogs either....more
This is the point at which things become excessively meta. Given certain scenes in this volume, I'm increasingly convinced that this was composed undeThis is the point at which things become excessively meta. Given certain scenes in this volume, I'm increasingly convinced that this was composed under the influence of powerful psychoactive substances. The thin thread of plot heretofore barely in evidence seems herein to have become, not incomprehensible exactly, but essentially incoherent. Or maybe, like a Fellini film, it's deliberately that way to induce confusion (or mere frustration) in the reader. Anyway, I'm glad there's only one volume remaining, or I'd probably cut and run here....more