Romy Jaster

Romy Jaster, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
20. Januar 2021 16.45 – 18.45h CEST   Virtual conference room
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Poster WKAP-Vortrag Romy Jaster

Bullshit, Norms, and Politics

In the talk, I will present a novel account of bullshit. On the view I will put forward, an assertion is bullshit if the speaker is indifferent to the norms of assertion prevailing in a context. This can be read as either a rejection or a specification of Frankfurt’s characterization of bullshit. According to Frankfurt, the hallmark of bullshit is the speaker’s indifference to the truth. I’ll argue, first, that Frankfurt’s characterization is false if „indifference to the truth“ is understood to mean „indifference to the truth value of the utterance“. Secondly, I’ll argue that the bullshitter’s indifference is best understood as being directed towards norms of assertion: assert only what you know, what you have evidence for, what you believe. Third, I’ll argue that which of these norms prevails is a matter of context, so that whether an assertion is bullshit turns out to be a matter of context as well. Having established this account of bullshit, I will go on to argue against the popular idea (also put forward by Frankfurt) that a bullshitter necessarily intends to deceive her audience about her indifference. While true in some cases, this understanding of bullshit overlooks the existence of what I call „ostentative bullshit“, i.e. bullshit that carries its indifference to the norms of assertion on its sleeve. That is unfortunate, because acknowledging ostentative bullshit is vital to understanding how bullshit has been utilized in political communication in recent years.