26 April 2011

On Bullshit, the Big Society and Other Bollocks

By Gordon Finlayson

“One of the most salient features of our culture” observed the Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt “is that there is so much bullshit.” Frankfurt advances a theory. The bullshitter’s statements reflect his indifference to the matter of their truth or falsity. That makes his deception distinct from, and in one respect worse than the liar’s. For the liar, who intends to deceive by presenting as true what he knows to be false, honours the truth in his own perverse way. Frankfurt observes that the realms of advertising and indeed “the closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.” Politicians are prone to bullshit because they are required to have opinions about things they don’t know, and because they often say things merely for effect. Bullshit is among their chief weapons of mass distraction.

Recently 28 learned societies and subject associations signed a letter calling for the removal of the mention of “The Big Society” from the ‘delivery plan’ of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), on the grounds that research funds should not be hijacked by Government initiatives, let alone party political ones. Let’s call it the BS initiative – an acronym apparently not spotted by its architects.

[See the full article at Discussion Point: http://www.discussion-point.com/ArticlePage/article/bs-big-society]