On Bullshit (2005), by 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. As such, bullshit either can be true or can be false; hence, the bullshitter is someone whose principal aim when uttering or publishing bullshit is to impress the listener and the reader with words that communicate an impression that something is being or has been done, using words that are neither true nor false, and so obscure the facts of the matter being discussed; i.e. “the bullshitter is faking things, but that does not necessarily mean he gets them wrong.” 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.
The philosopher 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. 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).
- "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.
Pfeifer, Karl. Review of On Bullshit, Dialogue 45 (June 2006), pp. 617–620.
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