Bullshitting, Lying, and Indifference toward Truth

Abstract

This paper is about some of the ways in which people sometimes speak while be- ing indifferent toward what they say. We argue that what Harry Frankfurt called ‘bullshitting’ is a mode of speech marked by indifference toward inquiry, the coop- erative project of reaching truth in discourse. On this view bullshitting is character- ized by indifference toward the project of advancing inquiry by making progress on specific subinquiries, represented by so-called questions under discussion. This ac- count preserves the central insight of Frankfurt’s influential analysis of bullshitting in seeing the characteristic of bullshitting as indifference toward truth and falsity. Yet we show that speaking with indifference toward truth is a wider phenomenon than the one Frankfurt identified. The account offered in this paper thereby agrees with various critics of Frankfurt who argue that bullshitting is compatible with not being indifferent toward the truth-value of one’s assertions. Further, we argue that, while bullshitting and lying are not mutually exclusive, most lies are not instances of bullshitting. The account thereby avoids the problem that Frankfurt’s view ulti- mately is insufficient to adequately distinguish bullshitting and lying.

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Author Profiles

Andreas Stokke
Uppsala University
Don Fallis
Northeastern University

References found in this work

Studies in the Way of Words.Herbert Paul Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Inquiry.Robert C. Stalnaker - 1984 - Cambridge University Press.
Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language.William P. Alston - 1970 - Philosophical Quarterly 20 (79):172-179.
Assertion.Robert Stalnaker - 1978 - Syntax and Semantics (New York Academic Press) 9:315-332.

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