Archive for the ‘reflection’ Category

let’s talk about bullshit

June 28, 2006

I’m not sure you know this but here’s one conspiracy that’s been going on for a while. We are surrounded by bullshit. Now there are people who do it as a full-time job, and there are people who do it as a hobby. Why, look at this blog. More than half of the stuff 3vil g3nius’s been yapping on and on about is bullshit if you come to think about it.
Now I’ve done some major bullshitting gig in the past, like that time I was in an interview for uni course. That was my biggest bullshitting gig ever. Before that I’d never realised that I was a perfectionist. Yeah, that was a lame and unoriginal answer for the question “what do you think is your drawback?”. That was a hard question, you can’t make yourself look bad and good at the same time without being lame and unoriginal. And I’m far from being a perfectionist. I’m more of the let’s-do-a-fast-half-ass-attempt-and-get-out-of-here type. However, I’m not such a big star at bullshitting. Proof? I flunked that interview. Guess I wasn’t convincing enough.
So why do we bullshit so much? Why? Well, the popular answer is probably money. In my case, I wanted to get into a good course so I can earn a lot of money hence the bullshitting. Why do people sell themselves in job interviews by bullshitting? Job = money = food on the table. Why do politician bullshitting so much? I don’t know, probably money and power and who knows what else?
My next question is what is the difference between a bullshitter and a liar. Aren’t they the same? They all twist the truth in one way or another. However, bullshitter sounds cooler than liar I suppose. I found the answer to that question in an essay by Harry Frankfurt. According to Frankfurt, the liar knows and cares about the truth and deliberately sets out to mislead instead of telling the truth. The bullshitter, on the other hand, doesn’t care about the truth and only seek to impress.

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

So I guess that makes me a bullshitter. Now why do I feel both good and bad about this? Good because I don’t twist the truth in order to mislead. Bad because I did twist the truth that I don’t care about to impress. At least I console myself with the fact that I am a bad bullshitter.
I would also want to point out that I have never bullshitted about being an atheist or about my views on religions in general and Christianity in particular.