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180165 SE *Bullshit* and Philosophy (referring to Harry Frankfurt) (2019S)

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 18 - Philosophie
Continuous assessment of course work



max. 30 participants
Language: German


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Wednesday 13.03. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 20.03. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 27.03. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 03.04. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 10.04. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 08.05. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 15.05. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 22.05. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 29.05. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 05.06. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 12.06. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 19.06. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock
Wednesday 26.06. 16:45 - 18:15 Hörsaal 2i NIG 2.Stock


Aims, contents and method of the course

Harry G. Frankfurt’s „On Bullshit“ first appeared in The Raritan Review in 1986. 2005 Princeton University Press published the text as a little book which would soon become an international bestseller, being translated into 25 languages. The book has received renewed attention recently, as Gary L. Hardcastle und George A. Reisch took it as an exemplary case of the perspectives of a successful public involvement of scholarly work on the interface between academic philosophy and popular culture. Thus they published a collection of essays on “Bullshit and Philosophy” in Open Courts “Popular Culture and Philosophy”-series in 2006. While some of these essays critically discuss Frankfurt’s original contribution to 20th century philosophy, others emphasize the need for a reconsideration of Frankfurt’s definition of “Bullshit”, while still others argue for the necessity of expanding the scope of the discussion. Thus Hardcastle and Reisch emphasize that the general topic, associated with the term “Bullshit” is an essential part of the history of European philosophy, ranging from Socrates through David Hume, Wittgenstein und the Vienna Circle. If we understand “Bullshit” provisionary as “empty talk” the following questions arise: How can we separate empty talk from meaningful statements? How can we discern the concepts of meaninglessness and falseness? How do we differentiate between empty talk and lying?
During the course we will read Frankfurt’s paper as well as selected contributions to Hardcastle&Reisch (2006). The aim is to get a clear and precise understanding of different conceptions and definitions of Bullshit and related notions as well as their relative strengths and weaknesses. After these conceptual clarifications we will have a look at historical (e.g. Wittgenstein) as well as contemporary (e.g. André Spicer) connections and fields of application.

Assessment and permitted materials

A large part of the course will consist in a close reading of the relevant literature. Our method consists of four parts: 1. Participants are required to hand in written comments (1-2 pages) on the relevant pieces of literature, two days prior to the meeting. The comments have to be uploaded on moodle, other participants can read the contributions of colleagues. 2. Short student presentation. At the beginning of each meeting one or two participants will give a presentation of the topics which were discussed in the comments, thus providing a framework for the discussion session. Students who give a presentation are exempted from writing a comment for this particular meeting. 3. Students are required to participate in the discussions. 4. Short paper (5-7 pages) at the end of the term.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

1: 40%; 2: 20%; 3: 20%; 4: 20%

Language: German and English
ATTENTION: Large parts of the relevant literature are in English. A good grasp of English is highly recommended for participating. However, discussion sessions may be held in German as well.

Examination topics

Reading list

Harry Frankfurt: On Bullshit, Princeton University Press 2005
Gary L. Hardcastle & George A. Reisch (eds): Bullshit and Philosophy, Chicago and LaSalle, Illinois, 2006
André Spicer: Business Bullshit, London & New York 2018
At the beginning of the course the schedule for the term as well as additional literature will be announced.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:36