Bullshit vs lying””is there a difference?
According to Wikipedia, Philosopher Harry Frankfurt of Princeton University characterizes bullshit as a form of falsehood distinct from lying. The liar, Frankfurt holds, knows and cares about the truth, but deliberately sets out to mislead instead of telling the truth. The bullshitter, on the other hand, does not care about the truth and is only seeking to impress.
I’m sure we all can think of examples of both bullshitters and liars. When I was a kid my best friend was an accomplished bullshitter. Man, he could come up with some impressive lines of bullshit, and it didn’t even seem to bother him that no one believed a word he said. One fall he tried to convince our classmates that he had broken his back during the summer while bullriding, and it had miraculously healed in time for the first day of school.
I always secretly admired his imaginative fearlessness, but no matter how much I tried to emulate it I was never as successful as my friend. The thing is, he never tried to bullshit anyone about anything very important. He tried to tell people that the FBI was tailing him, that he had once killed a bear with a large bowie knife, and that he had conjured ghosts with an Ouija board. But he was completely trustworthy, selfless, and his shoulder was the one I looked for when times got tough.
I also knew a guy who lied all the time. Everything he told you was a ruse meant to conceal some bit of nefariousness on his part. That bastard would steal the shoes off your feet if you stood still for too long. If he was being nice to you it probably meant that he had done something to you, or was setting you up for something. But because he was consciously trying to conceal truth, his lies were subtle and believable, and you had to be very careful of everything that guy told you.
The sad part of this whole thing was that all the adults hated the bullshitter. He had a bad reputation, and anytime something bad happened he was one of the usual suspects. On the other hand, the liar was pretty slick and he was usually pretty successful at avoiding any kind of real trouble with adults or authority figures.
After think about it, the bullshitters in our society seem to find their way into Hollywood, while the liars find a use for their talents in politics. When people say that we need to get rid of all the bullshit in Washington, just remember that the bullshitter can be your friend, but it’s those conscious liars that you have to watch out for.