[ExI] The world of bullshit
anders at aleph.se
Sat Dec 18 10:46:55 UTC 2010
Sorry, as someone hanging out with too many philosophers I must quibble:
most of what Ben Goldacre describes is not bullshit.
H.G Frankfurt wrote an excellent essay/little book called "On Bullshit"
where he analysed the concept. He concluded that when you deceive, you
know what is true and choose to signal information that makes people
believe untrue things. When you are bullshitting, you don't care what is
The biased academic papers, ghostwritten letters and withheld
information are all deception of different kinds. Someone knows or
suspects a true state of the world and acts to conceal it from others.
However, a lot of the bad newspaper reporting *is* bullshit by
Frankfurt's definition - the journalists are often not trying to
deceive, they just write stories.
Deception and bullshit are bad, but I think I agree with Frankfurt that
bullshit is more corrosive. Calling deception is easier and causes more
direct embarrassment, while the bullshitter often isn't embarrassed.
They ought to be.
Here is a homespun yule present idea: to publicly call out something
untrue or bullshit that annoys a person dear to you. "Dear Aunt Mary:
since I know you hate historical revisionism and love smoking, I have
made the following blog post where I document the photo-editing of old
photos of smoking celebrities..."
Future of Humanity Institute
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