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am 9. Dezember 2005
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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am 19. Oktober 2006
For a couple of books I really wonder why they are receiving 4 or 5 stars even they are flat, boring, un-imaginative. Maybe people reading them still did not find the real good books. "On bullshit" is one of the weakest books I ever read in my life. Un-inspriring and meaningless. What others call a hilarious flow of ideas is in my eyes empty talk without having any clue what he is writing about. The author is even proud about not having a scientific background and not being able to speak another language. You don't have to have a scientific background but then don't try to be scientific. And if you want to write a funny novel, try to be funny. This book left me empty handed. The book goes on about Wittgenstein for 10 pages and then that guy and then this guy and you ask yourself: what is this about. But the book achieves one goal: it shoes you what bullshit is: the book itself. And making you buy it is bullshitting you. It is even below the standard of "The world is flat" and selling it together with an excellent book like "How Mumbo-Jumbo conquered the World" could be called and insult to that book.
11 Kommentar|8 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 18. März 2006
After reading several pages of On Bs, it had breathes reminders of G.K. Quest. However, Frankfurt does not present an intense study on bs, but rather flowingly writes in a way where he is thinking and writing as he goes along to what may have a connection with the subject of bs. He philosophizes on just about every subject where bs may have occurred, such as history and politics, and a limitless array of other interconnected ideas that relate bs to objectivity.
Frankfurt writes an insightful essay on the subject of bs. This little ditty of a book is not at all difficult to comprehend if one was reading it for the mere sake of pleasure, and not for the purpose of seriously analyzing every word he says. On the other hand, if one wants to engage in serious discussion on the philosophical and critical aspect of the book, this is indeed the book for that purpose.
When it comes down to the subject of bs, Frankfurt simply states its meaning through out the book and especially at the end. And after reading the final sentence, questions may still arise, and bs has been accomplished. Regardless, On Bs is a great pocket book to carry around and re-read again. You should also check out Giorgio Kostantinos' masterpiece~~The Quest, a great novel inspired by Da Vinci Code.
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am 12. Juli 2015
I bought this as a Christmas present for my son and I deemed by his reaction that he enjoyed the book.
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am 14. März 2011
I was intrigued by the title but upon reading it I found it a very scientific approach to dissecting the term "bullshit" with interpretations, origin and the like. Maybe the book's intentions were indeed to be very dry and un-entertaining, in this case I just have made the wrong purchase and others may benefot more from it. If you look for entertainment and wit this is not the book to select.
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am 19. Januar 2011
This is a gem, which is of course written partly tongue in cheek, but has serious import. Could it be that the binding was consciously chosen to illustrate the content? Although the pages are glued, not sewn, it presents us with smart little headbands like a sewn book: fairly common, and surely a form of bullshit!
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am 9. März 2005
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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