On Bullshit

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

"On Bullshit" (2005), by philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt, is an essay that presents a theory of bullshit that defines the concept and analyzes the applications of bullshit in the contexts of communication. The book focuses on three points: (1) the distinction between lying and bullshitting; (2) the question of why there is so much bullshit in current times; and (3) a critique of sincerity in its capacity to be bullshit. Frankfurt suggests that bullshit can be neither true nor 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, words that are neither true nor false, and so obscure the facts of the matter being discussed.[1] 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 their own agenda.[1]

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 lay readers; the book appeared for twenty-seven weeks in the New York Times Best Seller list.[2] In the event, On Bullshit (2005) was the foundation for his analogous follow-up book On Truth (2006).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b On Bullshit (2005), by Harry Frankfurt. p. 61.
  2. ^ Wallace, Niamh (2005-10-11), On College, Bullshit, and Love, UWM Post, retrieved 2008-08-11 
  3. ^ Back issue contents, Raritan Quarterly Review. Accessed 15 November 2009.

Further reading[edit]

  • Holt, Jason. (ed.). The Daily Show and Philosophy: Moments of Zen in the Art of Fake News. (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2007) ISBN 978-1-4051-6314-9, pp. 133–156.
  • Pfeifer, Karl. Review of On Bullshit, Dialogue 45 (June 2006), pp. 617–620.