Emeritus moral philosopher Frankfurt wrote a light magazine article disguised as a scholarly paper, which Princeton University Press proceeded to issue as a duodecimo hardcover with an austere, treatise-like cover styling. Surely there is an element of bullshitting involved in the very production of this enormously successful object. It has been through many printings since 2005, and is almost certainly far more owned than read — despite the fact that it can be polished off in less than a half hour.
Frankfurt claims to offer a “theoretical understanding” of bullshit, commencing with a study of “the structure of its concept.” In practice, nearly the whole book — everything up to the final seven or eight short pages — consists of lexical comparisons and fussing over various denotative and connotative approaches to the term “bullshit.” In the end, however, a few significant issues are raised, or at least implied. Is bullshitting an appropriate implementation of an antirealist intellectual agenda? Does the bullshitter affirm or degrade his self-worth by his disregard for verity? Under conditions of sufficient ignorance, can sincerity and honesty be completely non-intersecting?
the last thing I recommend is chasing your own happiness. It may even do more harm than good.
The brilliance of the human species lies in our ability to put collective interests ahead of our own. We have the opportunity, every day, to contribute to collective efforts and others’ lives. These contributions will live on, well beyond our brief life span here on earth.
A moral critique of capitalism, emphasizing the ways in which it leads to suffering, only reinforces capitalist realism. Poverty, famine and war can be presented as an inevitable part of reality, while the hope that these forms of suffering could be eliminated easily painted as naive utopianism. Capitalist realism can only be threatened if it is shown to be in some way inconsistent or untenable; if, that is to say, capitalism’s ostensible ‘realism’ turns out to be nothing of the sort.
It is worth recalling that what is currently called realistic was itself once ‘impossible’: the slew of privatizations that took place since the 1980s would have been unthinkable only a decade earlier, and the current political-economic landscape (with unions in abeyance, utilities and railways denationalized) could scarcely have been imagined in 1975. Conversely, what was once eminently possible is now deemed unrealistic.