I thought our first [Fall ''17] session went well. Looking forward to Spring!
Scroll down to find each week's *quiz and discussion questions. Find as many quiz answers as you can, we'll go over them in class.
Please share your thoughts on Harry Frankfurt's "On Bullshit" (and any suggestions for better ways and words to express the concept, if you recoil from that language).
In Week 2 we'll take up Adam Gopnik's "Norms and Cliffs in Trump's America", Harry Frankfurt's Time essay (below), and anything else in this post you'd care to discuss.
(When last "cheaters" met it was the holiday season, prompting some seasonal humor...)
*Discussion Questions are posted below, please respond by clicking the "comments" link (you don't have to post your comments prior to our first meeting on the 16th, but of course you may). I look forward to conversing and "CoPhilosophizing" with you all! jpo
- MALA 6010-001 (CRN 86683)-Foundations of the Liberal Arts II: Cheating
- Fall 2017/Spring 2018 - Thursday 6:00-9:00 - COE 148
- Dr. Leah Tolbert Lyons (Course Coordinator) - Leah.Lyons@mtsu.edu
- Full course syllabus below**
Dr. Phil Oliver (Philosophy and Religious Studies)
Block Description: Reflections on public discourse and "alternative facts" in the politics of our time, in light of philosophers' thoughts on the indispensable value of honesty and truthfulness in civic life and in life generally. We'll examine the claim and implications of the claim that there are no facts, only interpretations. We'll consider the counter-claim that there must be both, and that the failure of some public figures to accept this is subversive of democracy.
Readings Week One:
Harry Frankfurt, "On Bullshit"... and see "How to Spot Bullshit" (video)
Readings Week Two:
Adam Gopnik, "Norms and Cliffs in Trump's America" and tba... "I Study Liars. I've Never Seen Anything Like President Drumpf"-Bella DePaulo***
Assignment: Post your short essay responses to at least two discussion questions each week, replying to this post in a comment below. Discussion questions to be posted soon, watch this space...
Grade Distribution: 50% Essays, 50% Attendance/Participation
1. Is the prevalence of BS in our culture the product of a relative few?
2. How is the expression often employed?
3. Why can a crisp analysis of BS not avoid being procrustean?
4. What does Frankfurt see as the main difference between BS and "humbug"?
5. Name two suggested synonyms for humbug.
6. Why does "deceptive misrepresentation" sound pleonastic, and what does Max Black probably mean by it?
7. How does humbug relate to lying?
8. Humbug reflects what two categories?
9. Is BS necessarily pretentious?
10. What does a liar/BSer/humbugger misrepresent?
11. How does a bombastic patriotic orator confirm Black's account? (Is he trying to deceive? What does he care about?)
12. What was the point of Wittgenstein's motto?
13. What are some contemporary examples of carefully wrought, well-crafted sophisticated BS?
14. What does the crafty BSer still share with the slovenly craftsman?
15. What did Wittgenstein tell his friend Pascal? (What is his accusation?)
16. Why did Wittgenstein perceive Pascal's statement as BS?
17. What's the essence of BS?
18. What tends to go on in a "bull session"? (What do participants generally recognize? How does it resemble BS?)
19. What does the OED get wrong and right about "bull"?
20. What does BSing have in common with bluffing?
21. What was Simpson's father's advice?
22. How is a BSer more free than a liar?
23. What does a BSer necessarily attempt to deceive us about?
24. Why aren't seven of Augustine's eight types of lie "real lies"?
25. Why does BSing "tend to unfit a person for telling the truth" in a way lying does not? (Why is BS a greater enemy of truth?)
26. Why is it not possible to be sure there's more BS now than ever before?
27. Why is BS so common in public life?
28. What doctrines undermine confidence in truth? What alternative ideal then arises? (And why does Frankfurt call it BS?)
*DISCUSSION QUESTIONS, Nov.16/Apr 12 (post your replies prior to our next class meeting on Nov.30... and post your own suggested Discussion Questions, and responses thereto, if you wish.)
- "Bullshit" is a harsh term, though perhaps appropriately so to those who deeply value truth. Are there other terms you prefer, though, that reflect a similar commitment to intellectual honesty and repugnance for both dishonesty and indifference?
- Do you agree that the prevalence of BS [or call it what you will] is particularly salient in our culture and in our time? Or has always and everywhere been endemic to human societies?
- Do you find Harry Frankfurt's essay mostly amusing, alarming, both, neither?
- What can each of us do to combat this phenomenon? How can we as a society raise our collective regard for interpersonal, political, intellectual (etc.) honesty?
- Do you "contribute [your] share," or do you resent that implied allegation?
- Are you "confident of your ability to recognize BS" or do you find yourself often or occasionally taken in by it?
- How, prior to reading this essay, did you define BS?
- "the expression bullshit is often employed quite loosely -- simply as a generic term of abuse, with no very specific literal meaning" - would you find it difficult not to employ the term in this fashion?
- Why is our attitude toward BS generally more benign than toward lying? Should it be?
- Is it inevitable that modern communications technology and the Internet will spread more BS, more paranoia, more conspiracy theorizing etc.? How can this be rectified?
- Is it the responsibility of every citizen in a democracy to have informed opinions about everything that pertains to his country's affairs?
- Is there a direct line from BS to denialism*, the subversion of democracy, or other threats to life in an open society?
- What's your view of this "cheating" situation? ("The Ethicist," nyt) Is total honesty always the best policy? Or is this man's candor another variety of BS?
- Suggest and comment on your own DQs...
Bullshit and Philosophy
Guaranteed to Get Perfect Results Every Time
Edited by Gary L. Hardcastle and George A. Reisch
Volume 24 in the Popular Culture and Philosophy® seriesBullshit is booming, both in the popular media and in the cloisters of academia. Bullshit studies received a tremendous boost from the pioneering work of Harry G. Frankfurt, and yet Frankfurt’s seminal theses opened up more questions than they answered. Now, in Bullshit and Philosophy, some of the most highly trained intellects of our epoch critique Frankfurt and take the discourse beyond Frankfurt. Bullshit and Philosophy has new contributions to the Frankfurt-Cohen debate, searching examinations of hitherto unidentified and unanalyzed species of bullshit, and acute observations on the impact of bullshit in politics, science, the courtroom, and the classroom... Open Court
Frankfurt on Trump, in Time...
I spent the first two decades of my career as a social scientist studying liars and their lies. I thought I had developed a sense of what to expect from them. Then along came President Drumpf. His lies are both more frequent and more malicious than ordinary people’s.
In research beginning in the mid-1990s, when I was a professor at the University of Virginia, my colleagues and I asked 77 college students and 70 people from the nearby community to keep diaries of all the lies they told every day for a week. They handed them in to us with no names attached. We calculated participants’ rates of lying and categorized each lie as either self-serving (told to advantage the liar or protect the liar from embarrassment, blame or other undesired outcomes) or kind (told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else).
At The Washington Post, the Fact Checker feature has been tracking every false and misleading claim and flip-flop made by President Drumpf this year. The inclusion of misleading statements and flip-flops is consistent with the definition of lying my colleagues and I gave to our participants: “A lie occurs any time you intentionally try to mislead someone.” In the case of Drumpf’s claims, though, it is possible to ascertain only whether they were false or misleading, and not what the president’s intentions were. (And while the subjects of my research self-reported how often they lied, Drumpf’s falsehoods were tallied by The Post.)
I categorized the most recent 400 lies that The Post had documented through mid-November in the same way my colleagues and I had categorized the lies of the participants in our study.
The college students in our research told an average of two lies a day, and the community members told one. A more recent study of the lies 1,000 U. S. adults told in the previous 24 hours found that people told an average of 1.65 lies per day; the authors noted that 60 percent of the participants said they told no lies at all, while the top 5 percent of liars told nearly half of all the falsehoods in the study.
In Drumpf’s first 298 days in office, however, he made 1,628 false or misleading claims or flip-flops, by The Post’s tally. That’s about six per day, far higher than the average rate in our studies. And of course, reporters have access to only a subset of Drumpf’s false statements — the ones he makes publicly — so unless he never stretches the truth in private, his actual rate of lying is almost certainly higher... (continues)
*THE PRO-TRUTH PLEDGE
An Effective Strategy for Skeptics to Fight Fake News and Post-Truth Politics
please hold me accountable.
baggini’s consolations for a post-truth world
*Week Two Quiz/Apr 19
1. To what popular TV show does Gopnik's title allude?
2. How is Norm's affection for beer illustrative of his name's implication in this essay?
3. Why are norms normative?
4. What are the three elements of social games?
5. What would Monopoly be without norms?
6. When you google “Trump” and “norms” you find what?
7. What is truth-telling in our political culture, if not simply a norm?
8. Why do we take "Cliffs" for granted? Why aren't they codified or stated explicitly? Why do they matter?
9. What is Gopnik's objection to "norms" talk?
10. Why was the Soviet constitution a mockery?
11. What's the point of democratic government, and how does it relate to the unwritten status of our "rules"?
12. Why doesn't Gopnik think the Trump administration's style of governance (via tweets and altered "tone" etc.) represents "a mere violation of decorum"?
13. What did Frankfurt find alternately easy and difficult in candidate Trump's public assertions?
14. What makes it unclear to Frankfurt whether the president's statements about (for example) healthcare are lies or BS?
15. What does Frankfurt find "more disturbing than an important political figure who indulges freely both in lies and in bullshit"?
16. What centuries-old movement in philosophy and modern life do the editors of Bullshit and Philosophy say Frankfurt represents?
17. What particular scholarly focus piqued G.A. Cohen's interest in bullshit?
18. What would John Adams likely say about our relation to facts and evidence, as noted by Kurt Andersen?
19. What "initial devotion" has led us to our present situation with respect to dishonest public discourse, according to Andersen?
20. To what kind of thinking have Americans given themselves over, in Andersen's view?
21. Who said, over two decades ago, that "Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused... or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us," superstition and unreason abound?
22. Who says "denialism" is a war on progress?
23. To abandon facts is to abandon _____, says a historian quoted in One Nation After Trump.
24. Who does Ta-Nehisi Coates say are especially liable to BS?
- Will you take the Pro-Truth Pledge?*
- Do we want to discuss the flurry of sexual misconduct allegations and peremptory dismissals? Is truth being cheated, by dispensing "instant justice" in advance of any careful inquiry into all the facts? Or is Rough Justice required to rectify long-overdue attention to all the ways some powerful men have exploited and demeaned women?
- Do you share Gopnik's sitcom opinion re: "the best television comedy between The Honeymooners and Seinfeld”? Why (not)?
- Are social conventions more necessary and useful, or habitual and stultifying?
- Is social life in fact a game (see Ludwig Wittgenstein...)? Or does this metaphor distort the seriousness of our conventions etc.?
- Suggest your DQs, pertaining to this essay, to the Frankfurt Time essay, and to any other material posted or referenced here
- What norms enliven your favorite games?
- People often glibly say that all politicians lie, cheat, etc. Is truth-telling even a norm in our tradition?
- Must we now be much more explicit and detailed as to the values premises and principles that all participants in our political life must be expected to adhere to, for the benefit of both candidates and voters? Must all responsible voters to be "values voters" now?
- How does a society successfully inculcate respect for truth and core democratic values in its citizenry?
- Are social media like Twitter an inappropriate platform for presidential communication in general, or can they be used responsibly and with respect for democratic institutions and values?
- Have you been deceived by any of the President's public statements? Or do you also find it easy to tell which of his statements are unworthy of belief? How does it feel to live in a country whose chief executive is so reliably dishonest? Should dishonesty per se be considered an impeachable offense (except insofar as it can be plausibly defended in terms of national security)?
- COMMENT: “If we can't think for ourselves, if we're unwilling to question authority, then we're just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.” Carl Sagan
- Is failure to act on one's convictions a form of BS, of exhibiting indifference towards what one acknowledges as true? (See Anthony Doerr's "We Were Warned," below)
- Do you agree that Sarah Sanders doesn’t draw nearly the censure or ridicule that her predecessor Sean Spicer did? Why might that be so? Are we getting inured to BS?
Norms and Cliffs in Trump's America
Suddenly , all we hear about is “norms”—norms are here, norms are there, norms are everywhere: norms violated, norms overthrown, norms thrown back in the faces of their normalcy. Not since ander“Cheers” went off the air, back in the nineties, have we heard so much about Norms. “Cheers”—surely the best television comedy between “The Honeymooners” and “Seinfeld”—featured, you may recall, its own Norm, the saturnine barfly played by George Wendt, a good example of a man whose life consisted of nothing but norms. Putting a beer out for Norm was a norm of the bar: you did it because it was expected, though not written down anywhere. (“Beer? Have I become that predictable?” Norm occasionally asked, in feigned surprise.) An outsider once arrived at the bar and took his stool. “What do you do?” he politely asked an obviously enraged Norm. “Do? I sit there!” was the answer. These were Norm’s norms.
Norms are social conventions; they’re normative because they’re useful, and they’re not codified because they don’t have to be. One might say that every social game in which we participate has three elements: premises, rules, and norms. The premises state the concept; the rules regiment the play; and the norms inflect the action. Life is full of norms. A norm is a barstool reserved for a habitué. A norm is the rule that you tip the bartender when his shift ends even if you are carrying over the tab. In Monopoly, the rules are written down, but it would be a dull game indeed if it were not played with norms that have developed over time—putting fine money on “Free Parking,” say, or getting double one’s salary for landing directly on “Go.” It may be a dull game anyway—as countless families are now remembering, on rainy days in summer cabins—but it would be a lifeless game without evolved and unwritten norms.
Donald Trump and his minions have been engaged, we are told, every day, in violations of what are being called norms—the expectation, say, that the President will not engage in an open war with his own Attorney General, or make reckless accusations of illegality on the part of former Presidents. Google “Trump” and “norms,” and you find a huge, alarmed journalistic literature, enumerating the norms of political discourse that Trump has overturned that week or day—but those same pieces will also, more often than not, point out that, after all, overturning norms is what he was elected to do. When people accuse Trump of violating norms, there is a near immediate concession that they are, after all, only norms. One man’s favorite barstool is the next man’s barrier to bar-service entry. Emily Bazelon, writing in the Times Magazine, summed up the problem this way: “Though some of our core democratic values are wrapped up in norms, it’s still easy to ask: If no laws have been broken, what’s the problem?” Bazelon (who, it should be noted, is well aware that these questions are hard ones) observed that it was “natural enough for his supporters to dismiss talk of ‘norms’ as the useless hand-wringing of a worse-than-useless establishment.”
But respecting the rule of law is not a norm. Telling the truth about matters of state—or apologizing when you haven’t been able to tell it—are not “norms.” They are premises. They aren’t enumerated or listed in advance in a legal document, not because they’re merely conventional but because they make all the other conventions possible. They’re not the way we wear our hats; they’re the ground beneath our feet. Call them—well, call them Cliffs, after Norm’s beloved mailman drinking partner, inasmuch as we fall right off the moral mountain to our obliteration without them. We take them for granted because without them there would be no way of standing up at all. We don’t list them not because they are mere manners and conventions but because they are the unstated absolutes that let everything else go on.
Nowhere on the Monopoly box does it say, “It is forbidden for the players to use guns to force a trade.” It doesn’t have to; sitting down to play Monopoly implies that you have already understood that. The Constitution does not say, in its preamble, “it is important to respect laws,” because it assumes that no one would, or could, seek power who did not share that assumption. Standing up to play the game of government implies good faith in it. Values and premises and principles are not codified because if you had to codify them you couldn’t have a code at all.
This difference is neither merely verbal nor philosophical; it is vital. For deflecting the discourse into one about norms, when we are really talking about premises and principles, is one more way of, well, normalizing Trump’s assault on democratic government. It turns what is really subversion into mere behavior. It’s one form of the frightened levelling-off that Trump has intimidated too many pundits and reporters into accepting. Every totalitarian country has a constitution—the Soviet constitution was a mockery not because its “norms” were not respected but because the ruling party had complete contempt for the premises it was based on. What mattered were not the norms of its enforcement but the social compact that was understood to underlie it and the mutual respect people showed for it. That Trump’s hard-core followers delight in his transgressions—even if such followers were a majority, which they are not—does not make them normative. It is exactly the point of a democratic government to say that, though norms may change, the premises aren’t directly or easily subject to a majority vote, even by the gleefully vengeful. Some of the rules are unwritten because if you had to write them down it would be an admission that there were people not ready to play.
So let us hear no more of norms. Do not let anyone convince you that Trump’s evils are matters of performance or personality or affect—that they can be overlooked, or that there is a mere violation of decorum underway. For that is exactly how tyrants have always engaged in the moral degradation of their followers. “I just have to look past the tweets” or “He has a problem with his tone” is the new moral equivalent of “Well, the trains run on time,” or, “At least the emperor has built a lot of marble temples.” Norms come and go, no matter how hardily they stick to their bar stools. The principles and premises of social contracts, which make both bars and republics possible, don’t. New Yorker
[NOTE: In an impulsive moment last year I added a widget to my computer that automatically changes every iteration of "*rump" to "Drumpf" - Cousin John Oliver had just launched his "Make Donald Drumpf Again" campaign - and now I don't know how to remove it. I've gotten used to it, but I apologize if you find it annoying. -jpo]
Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire - a 500-Year History, by Kurt Andersen
"When John Adams said in the 1700s that “facts are stubborn things," the overriding American principle of personal freedom was not yet enshrined in the Declaration or the Constitution, and the United States of America was itself still a dream. Two and a half centuries later the nation Adams cofounded has become a majority-rule de facto refutation of his truism: "our wishes, our inclinations" and 'the dictates of our passions' now apparently do 'alter the state of facts and
evidence,' because extrteme cognitive liberty and the pursuit of happiness rule."
“...mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that steep and simmer for a few centuries; run it through the anything-goes 1960s and the Internet age; the result is the America we inhabit today, where reality and fantasy are weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.”
...As [Andersen] he explains in what must have been an alarmingly self-confirming last chapter: Donald Drumpf is “stupendous Exhibit A” in the landscape of “Fantasyland,” a fitting leader for a nation that has, over the centuries, nurtured a “promiscuous devotion to the untrue.”
Fake news. Post-truth. Alternative facts. For Andersen, these are not momentary perversions but habits baked into our DNA, the ultimate expressions of attitudes “that have made America exceptional for its entire history.” The country’s initial devotion to religious and intellectual freedom, Andersen argues, has over the centuries morphed into a fierce entitlement to custom-made reality. So your right to believe in angels and your neighbor’s right to believe in U.F.O.s and Rachel Dolezal’s right to believe she is black lead naturally to our president’s right to insist that his crowds were bigger... Hanna Rosin, continues
Given this new era of ours, as we spend inordinate amounts of time talking and reading about the erratic man who lives in the White House, it feels important to establish up front that this exhaustively researched book isn’t really about the president. Sure, Andersen devotes most of the last chapter to Drumpf... but on the whole he's far more interested in exploring why so many Americans are willing to believe almost anything — and how this affects all of us. According to recent surveys by legitimate polling companies, half the country doesn’t believe in man-made climate change, and 1 in 4 is open to the idea that Barack Obama is the antichrist. Twenty percent suspect that 9/11 was an inside job.
“Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the last half-century,” Andersen writes, “Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation, small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us...” Kevin Canfield, continues
Carl Sagan, writing prophetically decades ago:
The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”
The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”
Necessary cognitive fortification against propaganda, pseudoscience, and general falsehood... brainpickings, continues
Lindsay Beyerstein: On Bullshit: Harry Frankfurt, Donald Drumpf, and Indifference to Truth
Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning journalist living in New York, whose work has appeared in outlets such as Slate, Salon, Newsweek, Al Jazeera America, The Wall Street Journal, and dozens of others. She is also the one of the hosts of the Center For Inquiry’s flagship podcast, Point of Inquiry (pointofinquiry.org). In this presentation, delivered on April 22, 2016 at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, NY, Beyerstein explores how GOP presidential nominee Donald Drumpf’s success reflects our post-factual political era, and what we can do to resist the deluge of misinformation. Beyerstein explores Drumpf’s relationship with the truth through the lens of philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s classic paper “On Bullshit,” in which he argues that the hallmark of bullshit is an indifference to the truth. A liar knows the truth and takes pains to misrepresent it convincingly, but a bullshitter casually mixes fact and fiction because, for him, the truth is beside the point. Beyerstein explains that Drumpf is the epitome of a Frankfurtian bullshitter, in that his rhetoric is crafted purely to impress his audience in the moment.
Beyond Bullshit: Donald Drumpf’s Philosophy of Language
Make your conversational contribution seem such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged, even though it’s not.
Donald Drumpf Is Not a Liar - He's something worse: a bullshit artist. New Republic
staff writer Michael Specter reveals that Americans have come to mistrust institutions and especially the institution of science more today than ever before. For centuries, the general view had been that science is neither good nor bad—that it merely supplies information and that new information is always beneficial. Now, science is viewed as a political constituency that isn’t always in our best interest. We live in a world where the leaders of African nations prefer to let their citizens starve to death rather than import genetically modified grains. Childhood vaccines have proven to be the most effective public health measure in history, yet people march on Washington to protest their use. In the United States a growing series of studies show that dietary supplements and “natural” cures have almost no value, and often cause harm. We still spend billions of dollars on them. In hundreds of the best universities in the world, laboratories are anonymous, unmarked, and surrounded by platoons of security guards—such is the opposition to any research that includes experiments with animals. And pharmaceutical companies that just forty years ago were perhaps the most visible symbol of our remarkable advance against disease have increasingly been seen as callous corporations propelled solely by avarice and greed.In Denialism, New Yorker
As Michael Specter sees it, this amounts to a war against progress. The issues may be complex but the choices are not: Are we going to continue to embrace new technologies, along with acknowledging their limitations and threats, or are we ready to slink back into an era of magical thinking? In Denialism, Specter makes an argument for a new Enlightenment, the revival of an approach to the physical world that was stunningly effective for hundreds of years: What can be understood and reliably repeated by experiment is what nature regarded as true. Now, at the time of mankind’s greatest scientific advances—and our greatest need for them—that deal must be renewed. amazon
David Remnick Moderates a Panel on Drumpf’s First Hundred Days
At the Public Theatre, Remnick spoke with journalists—including the Huffington Post’s Lydia Polgreen and the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold—about covering the President...
Hillary Clinton and David Remnick Discuss “What Happened”
Hillary Clinton has no doubt that allies of Donald Drumpf colluded with Russia and WikiLeaks to derail her election...
On "On Bullshit" by Harry Frankfurt
Petter Naessan examines Harry Frankfurt’s famous little book On Bullshit.
The sequel: On Truth -
"Not very long ago, I published an essay on bullshit, entitled On Bullshit...“To establish and to sustain an advanced culture, we need to avoid being debilitated either by error or by ignorance. We need to know—and, of course, we must also understand how to make productive use of—a great many truths.”
“Civilizations... cannot flourish if they are beset with troublesome infections of mistaken beliefs.”
“We cannot think of ourselves as creatures whose rationality endows us with an especially significant advantage over others—indeed, we cannot think of ourselves as rational creatures at all—unless we think of ourselves as creatures who recognize that facts, and true statements about the facts, are indispensable in providing us with reasons for believing (or for not believing) various things and for taking (or for not taking) various actions. If we have no respect for the distinction between true and false, we may as well kiss our much-vaunted “rationality” good-bye.”
Drumpf's Lies vs. Obama's
(nyt) After we published a list of President Drumpf’s lies this summer, we heard a common response from his supporters. They said, in effect: Yes, but if you made a similar list for previous presidents, it would be just as bad.
We’ve set out to make that list. Here, you will find our attempt at a comprehensive catalog of the falsehoods that Barack Obama told while he was president. (We also discuss George W. Bush below, although the lack of real-time fact-checking during his presidency made a comprehensive list impossible.)
We applied the same conservative standard to Obama and Drumpf, counting only demonstrably and substantially false statements. The result: Drumpf is unlike any other modern president. He seems virtually indifferent to reality, often saying whatever helps him make the case he’s trying to make.
In his first 10 months in office, he has told 103 separate untruths, many of them repeatedly. Obama told 18 over his entire eight-year tenure. That’s an average of about two a year for Obama and about 124 a year for Drumpf.(continues)
One Nation After Drumpf: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet-Deported by E.J. Dionne, Jr., Norman J. Ornstein, Thomas E. Mann
...in his powerful book On Tyranny, the historian Timothy Snyder offered 20 lessons that twentieth-century history had to teach us in the Trump era. Lesson 10 was at once basic and essential: “Believe in truth.” “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power. You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case."
From the Reason and Meaning blog -
Harry Frankfurt on Bullshit And Lying
January 23, 2017 Truth
(This article was reprinted in the online magazine of the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, February 6, 2017.)
Emeritus professor of philosophy at Princeton Harry Frankfurt‘s book, On Bullshit, was a surprise best seller a few years ago. Given the public musings of our recently installed President, I thought it time to revisit the main idea of the book.
Frankfurt begins by jumping right in: “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.” This is a truism, but it provides small comfort to those of us who listen to so much of what is said by politicians, generals, clergy, and uninformed citizens. No pain is too severe for them to inflict on those of us with relatively well-ordered minds.
But what is bullshitting and in what ways it is similar to, and different from, lying? Here are the basics as Frankfurt sees them:
Main Similarities –
1) Both liars and bullshitters (bsers) want you to believe that they are telling the truth.
2) And both want to get away with something.
1) Liars engage in a conscious act of deception.
2) Liars know the truth, but attempt to hide it.
3) Liars spread untruths, but they still accept the distinction between the truth and false.
(Reason and Meaning, continues)
How the Internet Fuels Paranoid Thinking - Today’s conspiracies have taken on the contours of the online world. Amanda Hess, nyt
Mr. Coates: OK, I’m gonna talk about what I don’t know. And listen, here’s the thing that happens. Here’s the thing that happens. You are well-researched and knowledgeable about one thing that you’ve been thinking about a long time and you’ve been reading about a long time. That does not make you well-researched and knowledgeable about all things. These are — for instance, that question right there. There are people, activists who spend their lives grappling with that and have spent their lives grappling. I’m a writer. I prefer solitude; I prefer to be alone. I prefer some distance from struggle. I like that. That’s my joy. That’s my life experience.
It would be — because I think there’s this tradition: I get this title, “public intellectual,” and I don’t like it, because what it sounds to me is like people who B.S. They’re smart about one thing, and so they play into this notion that they’re smart about everything else. I have not struggled with that at all.
I just — I haven’t. I haven’t, and so for me to answer would be to pretend as though I had. If you want to ask me about writing, I can — up one side, down the other. I got you. I’m with you, because I’ve struggled with that. I was thinking about it on the plane today. That’s just — I can’t address things that are not things that I’ve actually struggled with. I’m sorry. I really apologize. Is there — are there two more, or something?
Frank Bruni NOV. 3, 2017
I missed the panic in his eyes, which signaled a scintilla of awareness that he was peddling hooey. I missed the squeak in his voice, which suggested perhaps the tiniest smidgen of shame.
He never seemed to me entirely at home in his domicile of deception; she dwells without evident compunction in a gaudier fairyland of grander fictions. There’s no panic. No squeak. Just that repulsed expression, as if a foul odor had wafted in and she knew — just knew — that the culprit was CNN.
True, she hasn’t told a lie as tidy as Spicer’s ludicrousness about Donald Drumpf’s inauguration crowds. But her briefings are breathtaking — certainly this week’s were. For some 20 minutes every afternoon, down is up, paralysis is progress, enmity is harmony, stupid is smart, villain is victim, disgrace is honor, plutocracy is populism and Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia if anyone would summon the nerve to investigate her (because, you know, that never, ever happens). I watch and listen with sheer awe.
With despair, too, because Sanders doesn’t draw nearly the censure or ridicule that Spicer did, and the reason isn’t her. It’s us. More precisely, it’s what Drumpf and his presidency have done to us. Little more than nine months in, we’ve surrendered any expectation of honesty. We’re inured... (continues)
|Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior)|
This is very dangerous, Google. (For those just hearing about Texas shooter, assertions catalogued here are inflammatory and false.) twitter.com/justinhendrix/…
Aristotle, dubbed by Dante "master of those who know," loved Plato but he loved truth more. "All men by nature desire to know." I don't know about that. In our time we're seeing strong confirmation for the proposition that all desire to assert what they believe as if they knew it, or as if knowledge just meant firm conviction and not justified true belief. If we all had a natural instinct for truth we'd have a lot less talk about alt-facts. The reality-based community would feel a lot more secure and facts would change our minds. Summarizing the latest literature on confirmation ("my side") bias and irrationality Elizabeth Kolbert writes:
“As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding”... And here our dependence on other minds reinforces the problem. If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views. If we all now dismiss as unconvincing any information that contradicts our opinion, you get, well, the Drumpf Administration.
...Providing people with accurate information doesn’t seem to help; they simply discount it. Appealing to their emotions may work better, but doing so is obviously antithetical to the goal of promoting sound science...
“The Enigma of Reason,” “The Knowledge Illusion,” and “Denying to the Grave” were all written before the November election. And yet they anticipate Kellyanne Conway and the rise of “alternative facts.” These days, it can feel as if the entire country has been given over to a vast psychological experiment being run either by no one or by Steve Bannon. Rational agents would be able to think their way to a solution. But, on this matter, the literature is not reassuring.
Elizabeth Kolbert, Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds-New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason. “Once formed,” the researchers observed dryly, “impressions are remarkably perseverant.”