Fighting Bull

Harry Frankfurt, the Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University, published a book last year in which he sets out a philosophical theory of bullshit. On Bullshit, which became a surprise best seller, was actually a paper he wrote back in 1986.

Publisher, Princeton University Press, commented: "Bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner's capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."

Deborah Solomon's questions this week in the New York Times magazine were for Mr. Frankfurt regarding his new book, an examination of the importance of truth, On Truth.

What do you think the pursuit of truth requires?

Recognizing truth requires selflessness. You have to leave yourself out of it so you can find out the way things are in themselves, not the way they look to you or how you feel about them or how you would like them to be.

The rest of her questions and his responses (free registration):

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