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On Bullshit Hardcover – 30 Jan 2005


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (30 Jan 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691122946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691122946
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 10.8 x 15.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 126,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review


Winner of the 2005 Bestseller Award in Philosophy, The Book Standard



"[Frankfurt] tries, with the help of Wittgenstein, Pound, St. Augustine and the spy novelist Eric Ambler, among others, to ask some of the preliminary questions--to define the nature of a thing recognized by all but understood by none. . . . What is bullshit, after all? Mr. Frankfurt points out it is neither fish nor fowl. Those who produce it certainly aren't honest, but neither are they liars, given that the liar and the honest man are linked in their common, if not identical, regard for the truth."--Peter Edidin, New York Times



"The scholar who answers the question, 'What is bullshit?' bids boldly to define the spirit of the present age. . . . Frankfurt's conclusion . . . is that bullshit is defined not so much by the end product as by the process by which it is created. Eureka! Frankfurt's definition is one of those not-at-all-obvious insights that become blindingly obvious the moment they are expressed."--Timothy Noah, Slate



"Immediately, I must say: read it. Beautifully written, lucid, ironic and profound, it is a model of what philosophy can and should do. It is a small and highly provocative masterpiece, and I really don't think I am bullshitting you here."--Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times (London)


"This is what the world has long needed. . . . Bullshit is now such a dominant feature of our culture that most of us are confident we can recognize and rebuff it. But Frankfurt shows the reader just how insidious (and destructive) it can be. . . . This book will change your life."--Leopold Froehlich, Playboy



"Frankfurt's book should be required reading for anyone whose speech or writing are intended for public consumption. Despite his subject, he is definitely not full of it."--Kevin Wood, The Daily Yomiuri



"On Bullshit offers a tightly focused, telling critique of a political and cultural climate that seems positively humid with mendacity, obfuscation, evasion and illusion."--Steven Winn, San Francisco Chronicle



"There is an interesting problem sketched at the end of the book, wherein sincerity is described as an ideal for those who do not believe that there is any (objective) truth, thus departing from the ideal correctness. . . . Needless to say, there are numerous problems which may be expanded, looked into and analyzed concerning bullshit. And I dare say that Frankfurt's little book is a nice starting point."--Petter A. Naessan, Philosophy Now



"[On Bullshit's] calm, clearheaded deconstruction of everyday deceit is without parallel."--Gordon Phinn, Books in Canada



"With its relevance to contemporary issues and culture, On Bullshit is well worth the read. . . . The analysis is strict and philosophical with the clear intention of seeking the truth."--Karen Boore, The Michigan Review



"Harry Frankfurt, a Princeton philosophy professor, presents a scholarly and formal essay on inflated truth, purposeful obfuscation, and pretentious duplicity. . . . I'm sure he had a blast writing it, and the droll prose is a tasty treat."--Richard Pachter, The Boston Globe



"Professor Frankfurt concludes that bullshit is a process rather than an end product. . . . If you are fed up with hype, spin and bullshit this book will provide insight - and therapy."--Australian Doctor



"Terrific. . . . Has anything truer ever been written?"--William Watson, Montreal Gazette



"If you want to read a succinct, stylish piece of argument that will make you think far beyond the points it makes, you could do no better than invest ten dollars on Professor Frankfurt's handsomely bound essay."--Christopher Jary, British Army Review

From the Inside Flap


"A gem of psychological insight, social commentary, philosophical analysis, and good humor. This is the work of an extraordinarily acute, attentive, and versatile philosopher who has succeeded in addressing an audience comprised of both other philosophers and the general public on a topic of considerable human interest in a characteristically wry and engaging way. It is one of the most enjoyable and humanly illuminating short pieces of philosophy produced in the past fifty years."--Raymond Geuss, University of Cambridge


"The most audacious of the ancient alchemists desired to transmute lead into gold. They never succeeded. Who would have known that they should have started not with a base metal, but with bullshit? Harry Frankfurt offers a philosophical analysis of bullshit that is golden. The prose by turns employs irony, broad humor, and tongue-in-cheek high seriousness while at the same time manages to have a rigorous logical coherence that is always impressive. One leaves the essay not merely thinking it was a delight. One leaves it realizing that one has engaged the accomplishment of a great analyst and thinker."--William Chester Jordan, Professor of History, Princeton University



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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John M. Ford TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Jun 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book has serious points to make, although the reader may wander through a few pages before becoming confident that it is not attempting a self-parody. Stay with it and glean at least two key concepts.

First, BS is not lying. A liar knows the truth and carefully crafts an alternative to it to further some agenda. The BSer operates without regard for--perhaps even knowledge of--the truth. The BS is created to achieve an effect, to please the ego or ear, or perhaps just to fill some conversational space the speaker feels unable to neglect with silence. To the BSer, the offered BS even has some non-zero chance of being true--if it were only worth the bother to check.

The second insight is that certain organizational roles create pressure to engage in BS more than others. The author points to leaders who have frequent opportunities or demands to speak about their organizations' accomplishments without being very involved in the planning, production or evaluation of said accomplishments. Much of what these leaders say will be BS, to the sorrow and pain of those who must live with the consequences.

I'll close with a recommendation and a plea. I recommend that you buy a copy of this book for your own intellectual and moral development. It is brief, readable and encourages us to think seriously about both the truth and consequences of what we claim to know. Satisfied readers will also value an encounter with the author's related book, On Truth.

I then plead with you to purchase a second copy and mail it anonymously to the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia where Senior Executives for the Federal government are trained.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christos on 31 Mar 2013
Format: Hardcover
Precise, compact and hilarious. Excellent use of language. Perfect gift for colleagues that leave your company before you! I have bought multiple copies and they have all loved the concept.
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Format: Kindle Edition
What a disappointment. This book fails on so many levels:
1. As a philosophical essay, it has no discernible flow, tries to bamboozle with references here and there and the logical thread is interrupted so many times by the hazy turn of phrase and confused perspective. Reading it, you sweat to get to a definition of what "bulls***" is, you anguish to get the distinction between "bulls***" and other synonyms, and you feel that someone thinking they are smarter than you tries to make you feel stupid by throwing at you badly written argumentation.
2. As an entertaining read, it fails to even remotely benefit from the obvious hilarity that could be explored here, and it comes across as stuffy and self important
3. As a commentary of our times, it fails to make a connection to the realities of "bulls***" in today's society, from the medi to celebrities to pseudoscience, etc. there is no real commentary or even basic "setting the scene" for the book, which results in only making the endeavour redundant and irrelevant.
A good idea, well packaged (lovely hardbound tome), with a spiffing title, (the self explanatory, aforementioned "bulls***")that doesnt quite make it and makes you feel cheated.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. Smart on 19 Feb 2010
Format: Hardcover
When I first saw this book referenced I thought that it must be a novelty and, to be honest, didn't think that it actually existed. A quick search, and there it was. What is, as first sight, a humourous essay has a serious point to make. Extremely well written, it makes for a very informative, and entertaining, hour long read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This works unmaks the spin doctors, politicians and other nafarious b**********s for what they are: people who make up untruths and try and pass them off as truthful and factual. And the prose is a joy to read.
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By Viara on 4 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great read, prompt delivery.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very accessible, plain talking, and very short, 'academic read'. Some good theorising around BS, and 'timely' whichever decade you read this book - as there is evidently so much BS in the man-made world.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By sanyata on 3 Mar 2011
Format: Hardcover
mildly entertaining, ok written, but only two small points in the entire book
its more the concept that is fun than the book
it probably should have been a blog post, not a book
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