On Bullshit

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On Bullshit (1986), by philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt, is a philosophy essay that presents a theory of bullshit that defines the concept and analyses the applications of bullshit in the contexts of communication. It was first published in a journal in 1986,[1] but only became well known when republished as a booklet in 2005.[2]


Frankfurt argues that bullshit either can be true or can be false; hence, the bullshitter is a man or a woman whose principal aim — when uttering or publishing bullshit — is to impress the listener and the reader with words that communicate an impression favorable to the speaker, with no concern for the truth of what they're saying. Likewise, the bullshitter is not concerned with consistency between what they're saying at the moment, and anything they've previously said. Consequently, "the bullshitter is faking things, but that does not necessarily mean he gets them wrong."[2] He simply doesn't care. In contrast, the liar must know the truth of the matter under discussion in order to better conceal it from the listener or the reader being deceived with a lie, while the bullshitter’s sole concern is personal advancement and advantage to his or her agenda. Bullshit thus is a greater enemy of the truth than are lies.[2]

Publication history[edit]

Harry Frankfurt originally published the essay “On Bullshit” in the Raritan Quarterly Review journal in 1986. Nineteen years later, the essay was published as the book On Bullshit (2005), which proved popular among layman readers, and sold well for a non-fiction title about the philosophic problem of communications that is bullshit; the book appeared for twenty-seven weeks in the New York Times Best Seller list.[3] In the event, On Bullshit (2005) was the foundation for the analogous follow-up book On Truth (2006), also written by H.G. Frankfurt.

  • "On Bullshit." Raritan Quarterly Review 6, no. 2 (Fall 1986).[4]
  • "On Bullshit." The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-521-33324-5 (hardback), ISBN 0-521-33611-2 (paperback).
  • On Bullshit. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-691-12294-6.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Frankfurt, Harry G (1986) "On Bullshit" Raritan Quarterly Review, 6 (2): 81–100.
  2. ^ a b c Frankfurt, Harry G (2005) On Bullshit Princeton University Press. ISBN 9781400826537.
  3. ^ Wallace, Niamh (2005-10-11), On College, Bullshit, and Love, UWM Post, retrieved 2008-08-11 
  4. ^ Back issue contents, Raritan Quarterly Review. Accessed 15 November 2009.

External links[edit]

  • Pfeifer, Karl. Review of On Bullshit, Dialogue 45 (June 2006), pp. 617–620.