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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-fertilised discussion
My first surprise about this book (other than the title, which I cannot add to this review due to the propriety involved) is its brevity. Given the vastness, at least in potential, of the subject matter, the book could fill volumes. Of course, the author Harry Frankfurt might argue that there are indeed already volumes and volumes of balderdash. He states at the beginning...
Published on Dec 9 2005 by FrKurt Messick

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1.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointed
This book was a huge disappointment to me. The book was originally an essay. It is a purposeless book
Published 2 months ago by mohammad


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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-fertilised discussion, Dec 9 2005
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: On Bullshit (Hardcover)
My first surprise about this book (other than the title, which I cannot add to this review due to the propriety involved) is its brevity. Given the vastness, at least in potential, of the subject matter, the book could fill volumes. Of course, the author Harry Frankfurt might argue that there are indeed already volumes and volumes of balderdash. He states at the beginning that 'One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much', er, humbug. 'Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share.'
Frankfurt claims that the issue has not attracted sustained inquiry (he obviously has not been part of the committee meetings I've attended in the past few decades). This book, or rather booklet, is more of a brief essay or primer on the subject, looking at the issue from a linguistic standpoint as well as conceptual framework. There are many synonyms that come close; words such as humbug and balderdash (already used in this review) approximate the title term. Quoting Max Black's essay, 'The Prevalence of Humbug', Frankfurt suggests other closely related words such as claptrap, hokum, drivel, and such. Drawing from the OED definitions, he analyses the key elements of humbug, including misrepresentation just short of lying, elements of pomposity and pretentiousness (loosely applicable), and a possibility of embodiment in feeling or in thought.
Frankfurt also explores the issue of the title term in relation to an incident between Ludwig Wittgenstein (whose philosophical work reaches great heights in clarity and precision, particularly with regard to language and locution) and Fania Pascal. Wittgenstein's substitute term for the title term might have been 'nonsense', and he was diligent at working against such forms of language that might fall into disarray. When is a joke not a joke? Perhaps when it is uttered by Wittgenstein. Or perhaps when it is misinterpreted by Pascal.
Frankfurt looks at the title term in pieces. He looks at the term 'bull' and the later half separately, seeing what difference they make to each other. A 'bull' session is generally unstructured, personal, emotion-dominated. The other term is similarly unstructured for the most part, indicative of waste and odour, and generally not useful, save in very particular circumstances. There is a general lack of importance about it. But is this really true?
Frankfurt quotes the OED's use of the title term as verb (previously he had been looking at it from the standpoint of a noun), drawing Ezra Pound's Cantos into the mix, and the Bible as well. There is a sense of bluffing - one could easily use the title term in regard to something someone says that probably is not going to be true, or not going to be done.
Frankfurt even draws St. Augustine into the mix, attaching the title term to the rarest form of lying among Augustine's construct of the eight types of lying. It isn't necessarily lying to attain a goal, but rather for its own sake. But then, what becomes of the definition of humbug, offered earlier, that claims to stop just short of lying.
Frankfurt claims that the title term, perhaps as a thing or an act, 'is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.' This comes close to being a universal truth. Frankfurt proceeds to talk about anti-realist doctrines, sincerity versus correctness, and finally, to making a declaration that makes the reader wonder, was this entire thing an exercise in seeing just how much of the title term he could get away with as an author? If so, he is brilliantly tapping into the postmodern ethos.
Or perhaps that is all hokum, too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Key Points -- No BS, Feb. 16 2013
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: On Bullshit (Kindle Edition)
This book has serious points to make, although the reader may wander through a few pages before becoming confident that it is not attempting a self-parody. Stay with it and glean at least two key concepts.

First, BS is not lying. A liar knows the truth and carefully crafts an alternative to it to further some agenda. The BSer operates without regard for--perhaps even knowledge of--the truth. The BS is created to achieve an effect, to please the ego or ear, or perhaps just to fill some conversational space the speaker feels unable to neglect with silence. To the BSer, the offered BS even has some non-zero chance of being true--if it were only worth the bother to check.

The second insight is that certain organizational roles create pressure to engage in BS more than others. The author points to leaders who have frequent opportunities or demands to speak about their organizations' accomplishments without being very involved in the planning, production or evaluation of said accomplishments. Much of what these leaders say will be BS, to the sorrow and pain of those who must live with the consequences.

I'll close with a recommendation and a plea. I recommend that you buy a copy of this book for your own intellectual and moral development. It is brief, readable and encourages us to think seriously about both the truth and consequences of what we claim to know. Satisfied readers will also value an encounter with the author's related book, On Truth.

I then plead with you to purchase a second copy and mail it anonymously to the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia where Senior Executives for the Federal government are trained. Only good can come from some of them reading it. Members of the Senior Executive Service are selected based on general leadership ability and assigned jobs under the theory that specific technical program knowledge is far less important than this general ability. These conditions make them particularly likely to become chronic BSers. Let's try to help them--and ourselves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thin and Expensive but interesting, Jan. 8 2009
This review is from: On Bullshit (Hardcover)
It is a quick and interesting read. The book isn't only insightful, but I also like the writing style. Yes, we are surrounded with BS, and I agree with the author that BS is probably bigger enemy of the truth than outright lies. At the same time, BS is so prevalent in our society nowadays that it is almost impossible to escape it, no matter where you go.
I think that the price is a little high to pay for 80 pages. But, on the other hand, it is comparable to the cost of coffee and a snack in an average cafeteria, so it is worth the fun.

I also recommend Why Do Men Have Nipples?: Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini
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1.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointed, July 14 2014
This review is from: On Bullshit (Hardcover)
This book was a huge disappointment to me. The book was originally an essay. It is a purposeless book
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Important Book, Dec 9 2013
By 
Ruhi E. Tuzlak (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Bullshit (Hardcover)
When I saw the title (and before I had a chance to read the reviews) I expected that this book would be a light, very funny, very humorous work. How wrong I was!

This is not a funny book. Nor is it something that was written as a satire. Mr. Harry G. Frankfurt looks closely at BS as a concept and analyzes it. Also, he distinguishes this common phenomenon from lying and other similar notions. It is a guide for anyone who has ever heard and used this popular and widely used word. It is short and it is excellent!
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hilarious book, March 8 2005
By 
Carl (Richmond, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Bullshit (Hardcover)
I consider this book to be a very rich philosophical yet hilarious work, challenging in content, and gripping as a smooth read. Tou will agree with me that this book stands out as a tantalizing novel. You never guess what you will find until you start reading it. One thing for sure is that you will laugh, smile and ponder in turns. In the end, you will be more of a truthful guy than a the other type.Another wryly humorous and philosophically insightful novel is THE USURPER AND OTHER STORIES
Also recommended: Disciples of Fortune,Triple Agent, Double Cross,The Union Moujik
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5.0 out of 5 stars Its not supposed to be funny but it made me laugh, Aug. 20 2014
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This review is from: On Bullshit (Hardcover)
This book was hilarious. Its not supposed to be funny but it made me laugh.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, Aug. 6 2014
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This review is from: On Bullshit (Hardcover)
A must read for all bullshiters
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10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars As well it may be, May 9 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: On Bullshit (Hardcover)
With all due respect to the author, however this "book" was originally an essay published in a philosophical journal. And it is now in book form, without being expanded. It taught me very little. It was occassionaly funny in that acedemic sort of way in which a cute remark or pun is supposed to be rib cracking hillarous.
There are interesting ideas that could have been expanded upon. But more aspects are left out and not touched at all. In the end, the writer leaves with a little wink, that this dicussion may be somewhat the same matter, and I wonder that as well.
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8 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Title, May 29 2005
This review is from: On Bullshit (Hardcover)
Well, I found the title interesting while shopping around for new books to read. I was surprised when I actually opened the book to find it interesting. I also recommend Stop Working by Rohan Hall. Not quite the same topic but a pretty good book for entrepreneurs that want to become independently wealthy and stop working.
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On Bullshit
On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt (Hardcover - Jan. 30 2005)
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