Frankfurt Wasn't Bullshitting!

Southwest Philosophical Studies, Forthcoming

11 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2014

Date Written: April 10, 2014


Harry Frankfurt (2005, 33-34) says that it is a "lack of connection to a concern with truth — this indifference to how things really are — that I regard as the essence of bullshit." This characterization of bullshit has been criticized by several philosophers (e.g., Kimbrough 2006, 12-13, Carson 2010, 62-63, Wreen 2013, 110) on the grounds that there are examples of bullshit where the speaker is concerned with the truth. In this paper, I argue that, once we clarify exactly what it means to lack a concern with truth, it becomes clear that the purported counter-examples are actually captured by Frankfurt's characterization of bullshit (or that they are not the sort of utterance that Frankfurt intended to capture in the first place). However, once these details are spelled out, it also becomes clear that Frankfurt ignores an important and common category of bullshit. In particular, it turns out that, despite the fact that Frankfurt contrasts bullshitting with lying, most lies count as bullshit.

Keywords: Bullshit, Lying, Inquiry, Truth, Frankfurt

Suggested Citation

Fallis, Don, Frankfurt Wasn't Bullshitting! (April 10, 2014). Southwest Philosophical Studies, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Don Fallis (Contact Author)

Northeastern University ( email )

360 Huntington Ave,
Boston, MA 02115
United States


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