The phenomenon of bullshit in business continues apace. What better place to start than by trying to define what bullshit truly is? In his short but brilliant book On Bullshit, Harry G. Frankfurt, a Professor at Princeton University and renowned moral philosopher, points out that it is hard to define because the term is often used loosely and as a generic term of abuse, so it covers a multitude of sins.
Bullshit is now ubiquitous but strangely has not attracted much sustained inquiry because we think we know how to spot it and deal with it. But do we? Bullshit is as dismaying as shoddy goods – produced in a careless or self-indulgent manner, and never finely crafted. The essence of bullshit is a lack of concern with the truth and an indifference to how things really are.
But do bullshitters intentionally lie? Not necessarily. They are certainly faking things, but this does not mean that they necessarily get them totally wrong. As such, they have much more freedom than someone who tells the truth or lies, because they do not require an anchor point on one side or the other.
Interestingly, the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person's obligations or opportunities to speak about a topic exceed their knowledge of the relevant facts. What the rest of us need to understand about bullshitters is:
1. They are neither on the side of the truth nor the false.
2. They do not care whether the things they say describe reality correctly. They just pick them out, or make them up, to suit their purpose.
3. They do not reject the authority of truth as the liar does - they pay no attention to it at all.