now for something
different, though I wrote about both subjects in my title before.
1. More on bullshit
2. More on Bayle
1. More on bullshit
To start with the bullshit,
also in view of the APA's DSM-5 bullshit linked above, here are first
two links to earlier pieces in Nederlog about the subject:
And to start with, the
reader should realize that real empirical
and logic are
the only human
whose main end is to arrive at the truth - that
may be a truth to an effect like: It is true this is quite (im)probable -
by means of human reason, and where the concern for the truth is
predominant and trumps all other considerations. (*)
It is otherwise in ALL other human enterprises,
and the media:
these fields other human ends dominate what's happening, such as the
defeat of the infidels; the furthering of the Party's (leaders')
interests; the increase of profit; and the manipulation of the masses
by pretense, promises, deception
and using their penchant for wishful
means that in ALL
other human enterprises - except perhaps sometimes between real friends
or real lovers - bullshit and its close kins lies, wishful thinking,
posturing, and "public relations" prevails over truth and probability,
though indeed usually expressly in the name of truth and for the
general interest of all, which may be called the standard
In the first
of the links I
gave above, I quote from professor Frankfurt's On Bullshit (<-
the article : Bullshit in
Wikipedia, which are both good introductions to this truly enormous
field of human enterprisse, and here is a bit from the latter with a
bit from the former repeated for your information and delectation:
Bullshit is commonly used to
describe statements made by
people more concerned with the response of the audience than in truth
and accuracy, such as goal-oriented statements made in the field of
politics or advertising.
"Bullshit" does not necessarily have to be a complete fabrication; with
only basic knowledge about a topic, bullshit is often used to make the
audience believe that one knows far more about the topic by feigning
total certainty or making probable predictions. It may also merely be
"filler" or nonsense that, by virtue of its style or wording, gives the
impression that it actually means something.
In his essay On Bullshit (originally
and published as a monograph in 2005),
philosopher Harry Frankfurt
University characterizes bullshit as a form of falsehood distinct
from lying. The liar, Frankfurt holds, knows and cares about the truth,
but deliberately sets out to mislead instead of telling the truth. The
"bullshitter", on the other hand, does not care about the truth and is
only seeking 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
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.
And here I can link again to my
to show how
done, and how it may be controverted. To do the last well - that is:
rationally and logically, with or without satire - it helps a lot to
have some relevant knowledge, which you may find outlined here
Also, I found
link, that may be helpful, though I did not read it and don't know the
author, who gets interviewed in the New
Scientist by one Alison George - and check out the note (****) for bullshit about bullshit, for that
occurs as well, like lies about lies:
interesting, and starts thus
your new book, Believing
Bullshit, as a guide to avoid getting sucked into "intellectual
black holes". What are they?
Intellectual black holes are belief systems that draw people in and
hold them captive so they become willing slaves of claptrap. Belief in
homeopathy, psychic powers, alien abductions - these are examples of
intellectual black holes. As you approach them, you need to be on your
guard because if you get sucked in, it can be extremely difficult to
think your way clear again.
But isn't one
person's claptrap another's
There's a belief system about water to which we all sign up: it freezes
at 0 °C and boils at 100 °C. We are powerfully wedded to this
but that doesn't make it an intellectual black hole. That's because
these beliefs are genuinely reasonable. Beliefs at the core of
intellectual black holes, however, aren't reasonable. They merely
appear so to those trapped inside.
some strategies people use to
defend black hole beliefs. Tell me about one of them - "playing the
This involves appealing to mystery to get out of intellectual hot water
when someone is, say, propounding paranormal beliefs. They might say
something like: "Ah, but this is beyond the ability of science and
reason to decide. You, Mr Clever Dick Scientist, are guilty of
scientism, of assuming science can answer every question." This is
often followed by that quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "There
are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in
your philosophy". When you hear that, alarm bells should go off.
You can do something about the bullshit that reaches you from
almost all sides, sites and sources: Learn logic, learn science,
mathematics, and learn something about the art of writing and the field
good sources, though most are a bit dated, I suppose mostly
because of the the levelling of
education: Some of the good stuff about
rhetorics is in literary criticism - published before World War II,
when most students attending universities had a good intelllect, and
therefore could be directed to buy or borrow good but intellectually
somewhat demanding books - is in "literary criticism", by I.A.
Richards; and some is in philosophical logic or law.
to return to this very important subject of bullshit, and the tools to
recognize and combat it, and
provide some useful references. Meanwhile, you find the choicest and
artful bullshit in advertisment and in psychiatry (and
if you ever were convinced by Freud you need help as linked above ).
to put Bayle "An historic and critical dictionary"
on line in English, mentioned that I use the English edition of 1824
that Google scanned, and also mentioned that, as usual with the books I
have seen that Google scanned and sort of appropriated by putting its
nauseating logo on each page, their were picture of scanners fingers,
and mistakes in the text-file provided.
that I want to do it in a similar format as my
Philosophical Dictionary, simply because this is the most appropriate
form for Bayle's great work, and have started on that, and will
continue that soon.
there are just the titlepage of volume I, the advertisement,
biographical note on my site, but I hope volume I will be soon
available in my html-edition, simply because it is great, and I also
hope to have the health and energy to write my own comments on it, that
now is rather more probable I may find than it was some weeks ago, as I
will explain in Nederlog, probably later this month.
a pdf of the lot, done by Google, which is - so far as I've
seen it - properly scanned, apart from the title page, with textfiles I
have been downloading and using for my edition, which are passable for
volume I, but with mistakes.
I found yesterday Google scanned volume II meanwhile and put
the associated textfiles on line, about which I must admit - glad as I
am about it, and usually fair minded - that this time it seems quite
well done, but also, quite oddly for a textfile, with rather a lot of
small images of fingers inserted.
This I can't explain well, but as I said: I am glad that the pdf for
volume II and its associated textfiles of Bayle's "An historical and
critical dictionary" seem to be quite good.
could be persuaded to NOT put its logo on every page they
scan, possibly I might praise Google, but as long as they do, I am
merely thankful if and when the editions they do provide are well done,
and a tribute to their original authors, rather than a quick, dirty and
partial copy of a great and classical work, everywhere sporting
Google-logos like a pimp sports bling-bling.
to tie this in with the previous subject of today:
Bayle was one of
the greatest opponents of all manner of bullshit, though especially of
religious bullshit and bullshit inciting folks to be intolerant of
others, there ever was.
(*) I am
aware that people who have been educated during the last 40 postmodern
years full of pomo bullshit have probably learned otherwise at school
and in university. But see
for example, or my
(**) This is one reason why real science is so
very important, and why I like it so much, and also a reason why postmodernism
is so dangerous: It denies the existence of truth, and thereby serves
the worst types and institutions in politics, religion and business.
(***) "Meta-bullshit" is a term of art
like "metaphysics", "meta-mathematics a.s.o. Indeed, it is mostly a
bullshit term: A bit of obscure Greek instead of a plain "about".
(****) There is, of course, also a kind of bullshit
posing as if it is enlightened thinking battling bullshit. You can find
it e.g. on the Bad Science forums, directed - of all people - by a
psychiatric pupil of the major
bullshitter Simon Wessely.
So it is
certainly not the case that everyone doing battle with bullshit is
honest and rational - but there are two fairly good clues: Those who
really do battle with bullshit generally have taken the trouble to
acquire some real science and mathematics, while those who pretend did
not, and if an opinion is fashionable it generally is bullshit, for
what Byron said about England and cant applies everywhere:
"The grand primum mobile
of England is cant; cant political, cant poetical, cant religious, cant
moral, but always cant, multiplied through all the varieties of life."
And yes: "cant" is a
euphemism for bullshit - that all too often is a euphemism for intellectual fraud.
P.S. Corrections, if any are
have to be made later.