Symbolic Systems Forum
Title: A New Theory of Bullshit
Speaker: Laura Maguire, Philosophy Department
Date: October 30, 2017
Location: Building 460, Room 126 (Margaret Jacks Hall)
In his landmark essay “On Bullshit,” Harry Frankfurt offers the first philosophical analysis of bullshit. Unlike lying, where the speaker intends to say something she believes to be false, the bullshitter, according to Frankfurt, is simply indifferent to the truth of what she says. I propose an alternative theory of bullshit, one which allows for the distinct possibility that those who dispense bullshit care deeply about the truth of what they claim. Indifference to the truth, I will argue, cannot be the hallmark of bullshit. Nor must bullshit always involve a speech act that can be assessed as true or false. An adequate theory of bullshit will say what is in common to both bullshit that is spoken and bullshit that is performed or instituted.