The Buffoon


The Buffoon serves up bullshit, and the Dupe eats: I’ll see your compulsive lie, the Buffoon declares, and raise you relentless bullshit.  The Buffoon speaks in dungs.  Harry Frankfurt distinguishes lying from bluffing: though both are “modes of misrepresentation or deception,” lying “deliberately promulgates a falsehood,” while bluffing is “a matter not of falsity but of fakery.”  Which draws bullshit closer to bluffing, because “the essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony.”  Unlike a lie, bullshit essentially misrepresents “neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs.”  The bullshitter need not deceive, or even intend to deceive, about the facts, but does “attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise.”  His one “indispensable characteristic” is that “he misrepresents what he is up to.”  Bullshitter and liar alike “represent themselves falsely as endeavoring to communicate the truth.  The success of each depends upon deceiving us about that,” but by contrast to the liar, who covers up his attempt “to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality” into believing “something he supposes to be false,” the bullshitter hides “that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him”; he intends “neither to report the truth nor to conceal it.”  Any appearance that the bullshit is “anarchically impulsive” arises not because it is unmotivated, but because “the motive guiding and controlling it is unconcerned with how the things about which [the bullshitter] speaks truly are.”  The bullshitter “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,” unless they help “in getting away with what he says.”

In place of scientific method, the Dupe adopts buffoontific method: No need to test hypotheses.  In buffoontific method, bullshit having erased truth as a criterion, one stupidity steadies another, making the whole nexus of self-deceptions self-confirming.


© Harvey Hix 2020

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