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On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
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May 22, 11

Read on May 22, 2011

This very short book is a philosophical essay on the nature of bullshit. The main question that Frankfurt appears to be answering is, "Is lying always bullshit and is bullshit always lying?". The answer appears to be no and no. Frankfurt's distinction between the two is essentially this: The liar is conscious of the difference between the lie and the truth. In order to deceive you must have a grasp on where the truth lies. The bullshitter is not interested in the truth. He loses all connection between the truth and the lie.

This is the basic revelation in Frankfurt's essay although it is much more fun reading his ideas on this than mine. He does an admirable job in setting up his points and giving a working definition to lying and bullshit. Surprisingly easy to read, this is well worth the 20 minutes you will need to read it. I will also call your attention to the last four words of this essay. While not technically a spoiler I will avoid quoting them in order to give you the pleasure of reading them and discovering that Frankfurt has hit upon a major truth.
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