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Document Details :
Title: 'Zever, gezever!'
Subtitle: Frankfurts On Bullshit als analyse van de 'Post-Truth-Attitude'
Author(s): TRUWANT, Simon
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Filosofie
Volume: 82 Issue: 1 Date: 2020
In the aftermath of the ‘Brexit’ referendum in the United Kingdom and the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States, Oxford Dictionaries chose the term ‘post-truth’ as Word of the Year 2016. ‘Post-truth’ was thereby defined as 'relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief'. Ever since, the idea that the Western world has entered a ‘post-truth era’ has become widespread among journalists, political commentators, sociologists, and psychologists. It should not be surprising that philosophers have also weighed in on this topic. Truth is, after all, a philosophical theme par excellence, so the popular view that we nowadays live in a ‘post-truth era’ cannot but concern them. Furthermore, even many non-philosophers refer to a philosophical concept in order to interpret the ‘post-truth phenomenon’, namely the concept of ‘bullshit’ as Harry Frankfurt defined it in On Bullshit. None of these analyses, however, truly demonstrate why Frankfurt’s notion of ‘bullshit’ can be considered a precursor of the term ‘post-truth’. This essay tries to substantiate why Frankfurt indeed offers a most useful analysis of a ‘post-truth attitude’. I will discuss four ways in which he distinguishes bullshit from lies — namely based on its intention, its scope, its method, and its harmfulness — and explain how each of these aspects of bullshit also characterize our ‘post-truth era’. Each time, I will consider both those who spread bullshit and those who are exposed to it. In this way, I attempt to provide a conceptual framework for contemporary phenomena such as ‘alternative facts,’ internet trolls, fatigue of expertise, identity politics, the cult of authenticity, and disinformation.