Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On Reading Harry Frankfurt


Bullshitters, although they represent themselves as being engaged simply in conveying information, are not engaged in that enterprise at all. Instead, and most essentially, they are fakers and phonies who are attempting by what they say to manipulate the opinions of those to whom they speak. What they care about primarily, therefore, is whether what they say is effective in accomplishing this manipulation. Correspondingly, they are more or less indifferent to whether what they say is true or whether it is false.” Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit


I suppose reading the words of Harry Frankfurt, professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton, I am placed in a position of asking myself, most importantly, how strongly do I feel about what I am saying. I have always believed that there are times -when faced with my own habits of thinking- Imust accept that I am a lazy thinker. I have to read and think critically about the ideas of others only so I can train my mind to retain some minimal level of objectivity.
It is comforting that when I was so horribly pissed off in the past months, people ignored and tolerated my lapses in logic. People accepted that rationalizing with an angry man is pointless. Still, after all that time, the only responsibility I had, was to improve my outlook if I did not want to bore and scare off what few people I was meeting online.
My roommate, reading one of the few posts I wrote here, months ago, looked at the positive characterization of myself, and exclaimed “what bullshit!” It is in hearing those words, I got to ask myself , how well does Frankfurt's parameters -defining this phenomena- work in defining me, what I do . He states in his article that bullshit is everywhere, that everyone claims to be able to spot it, but no one can define it.
Frankfurt himself works hard to rein in bull shit to where, a basic understanding of it, a basic outline of how we recognize it, what its purpose is, and why is it so pervasive, so repulsive under normal circumstances.
I have a friend who twice told me “I do not like having my integrity questioned.” I suppose if I am honest, have to admit I do not like my integrity being questioned. I also, can imagine I would not like being audited by the Revenue Department. Simply, I am grateful that I wake up reasonably satisfied with the person I am.
My belief is that if I have to make declarations like “I do not like anyone questioning my integrity” that perhaps that statement is a piece of bullshit, aimed at attempting to intimidate, elicit a response. I suppose if someone says something to intimidate me, I could say that my bullshit detector goes off, a quiet sense that whatever was said, indifferent to the truth, but meant, solely, to deflect investigation.
But, honesty (maybe not.... uh oh) forces me to move back to myself, and the discussion. Of course my own aversion to genuine self-reflection means I have to look back at past paragraphs to remember what I had asked... Well, when I look at myself, I ask the question, am I truly indifferent to the truth in what I am saying.This question is the one where I see of what my integrity is built. I read a book years ago on integrity, and was startled when I discovered the base of the word is integer (one). Integrity is about a unity, a oneness. Am I unified? Do I have oneness in my thoughts and behaviors? When I speak(or write), do I glibly write stuff, indifferent to the truth of what I am saying? Is all that I write , solely aimed at guiding your impression of me? Well, there is a good chance that that may be true . But, in questions of integrity, I believe that true oneness, a person never tempted to lie, mischaracterize, is rare (if not nonexistent).
So, why all my fixation on honesty? I guess I have to deal with my own motives on that. I have had too many people listen, as I discuss the motives of others, and say, “Keith, did you not say that why they do what they do is none of your business?” Then I am forced to eat my words and look stupid.
So, if you say you want to question my honesty, fine. If you choose to audit my integrity, excellent. I know the day will come when my books will look pretty good. In the meantime, I will keep writing.
I have promised others and I promised myself that I would take care of my health, so from here, I have more chances to build on this oneness. Tomorrow I go to the HOPE van to schedule my CAT scan. More updates from here.
Thank you for reading.

4 comments:

Island Angel said...

hey ya~! just blog hopping and have a great weekend~! (^_^)

P.S.
love ur new blog settings~!!!!!!

obscurio said...

I hope they find your inner cat...

...Good Luck.

Annie said...

Interesting read...thank you. I especially like integrity ~ unity.

Side notes - great pic! How many ways are there to incorrectly pronounce quinoa?

May today bring you something unexpected and wonderful!

R. said...

Hey Smarty Pants!
Perhaps you suffer from Existential Cerebral Overload Syndrome.
We all love you - no matter.

"I think, therefore I stink." -Robert Dean Call