Friday, March 25, 2005

Read On Bullshit by H. G. Frankfurt

I got it and read it: a very small, 67-page, large-type book that pretty much sums up my political and epistemological concerns (concerns about honest or dishonest "anti-realisms" of all kinds), and also ties into my perhaps inaccurate worries (I shall see) about Lakoff's frames.

By the way, I have had similar problems with seemingly similar models of thought: Foucault's epistemes, Kuhn's paradigms, Fleck's thought-collectives, Levi-Strauss's mentalities, and so forth.

All of these supposedly "structuralist" views (and I have no problem with structuralism -- Gould's evolutionary theory was quite structuralist, rather than the usual evolutionary functionalism) might suffer from that all-too-important distinction between the descriptive and normative.

Sure, our minds have some structure (i.e., features of our mind that are "pre-wired" in the largest sense possible, whether by culture, biology, or both), but we also have constrained free will. Sure, we can try to use bullshit to win votes, but the truth content is what matters, and if Lakoff explicitly and normatively states that the goal of all his prescriptions is the fact that all of us imperfect and imperfectly knowing creatures decide, socially and consciously, that trying to work individually and collectively toward the truth is the basis of our culture (yes, a value), then I have no problem with the Lakoffian prescription, so to speak.

I know he's right about how the Republican PR/propaganda machine frames (in more senses than one) constantly. I'm not at all sure he's right that we should somehow adopt the same thought-process (it's a choice, regardless of what he may write or imply -- there is some choice here) and remain innocent and untarnished by its seductive nature. Frankfurt basically defines bullshit as intellectual laziness. I agree.

Now whether Frankfurt's "bullshit" equals Lakoff's "frames" -- or to what extent -- is an open question (for me) that I can't address till I read Moral Politics. Which I will. In Rhode Island. After the move. :)

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