"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Work just keeps getting weirder

I thought I was hallucinating when I looked up from my desk and saw a bevy of cheerleaders trooping through the office. Sorry, no photos.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Where did all the money go?

By way of Tbogg, we see an excellent expose in the London Review of Books of financial responsibility in Iraq

Philosopher takes on fertilizer
Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
On Bullshit

By Harry G. Frankfurt
Princeton University
67 pp, 1,500 yen

Humbug, claptrap, mahooha, quackery, bunkum, hooey, balderdash, shinola, malarky, baloney, nonsense--they all mean the same thing.

We all think we recognize it when we see it or hear it. According to Harry Frankfurt, moral philosopher and Princeton University professor of philosophy emeritus, "One of the most salient features of our culture" is that there is so much of it.

In his trenchant philosophical pamphlet On Bullshit, Frankfurt combines tongue-in-cheek high seriousness with academic style in examining the nature of his subject and how it differs from outright lying.

Frankfurt makes the case that while liars deliberately make false claims about what is true, truth is irrelevant to the BS artist. Writes Frankfurt: "He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."

Admittedly, some of the appeal of this brief book lies in seeing sharp-edged scatological expressions scattered through formal academic prose like cow patties through a pasture, but Frankfurt also manages to cite Ezra Pound, Ludwig Wittgenstein and St. Augustine to support his erudite arguments.

Why is there so much of it? Frankfurt posits: "Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about...This discrepancy is common in public life."

While criticizing those in public life for being full of hot air, the author also notes the "conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything" as a contributing factor.

Additionally, Frankfurt slams the growth of various forms of skepticism which deny the ability to perceive objective reality as aiding the proliferation of male bovine feces.

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.

(Jul. 10, 2005)