Article published in:New Theoretical Insights into Untruthfulness
Edited by Marta Dynel
[Pragmatics & Cognition 23:1] 2016
► pp. 68–91
Aspects of a theory of bullshit
This paper addresses the question whether bullshit is a reasonable pragmatic category. In the first part of the paper, drawing on the insights of Harry Frankfurt’s seminal essay, bullshit is defined as an act of insincere asserting where the speaker shows (a) a loose concern for the truth, and (b) does not want the addressee to become aware of condition (a). The author adds to this definition the condition (c) requiring that the bullshitter expresses more certainty than is adequate with respect to condition (a). In the second part of the paper, it is discussed whether the above definition can cope with special types of bullshit considered to be a challenge to Frankfurt’s definition. These are evasive bullshitting, bullshit lies, and bald-faced bullshitting. It is shown that there is hope for establishing a reasonable pragmatic category of bullshitting if it is related to certain levels of pragmatic description, e.g. conversational implicatures, that can explain the putative challenges.
Keywords: bald-faced bullshitting, bullshitting, bullshit lies, evasive bullshitting, certainty, humour
Published online: 29 September 2016
Cited by 7 other publications
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