Bullshit: it’s all around us, and a lot of it. But is it harmful? And if so, why? How can we discern bullshit from a lie, and how can we determine what might be true?
Whatever form bullshit takes—whether it be blurred out words or carefully crafted sentences—as long as it prevents us from asking the question: “What is true…?,” it has served its purpose. And we can easily see why this purpose could be considered harmful. What is the real quality of this product I’m about to consume? What are the real political and societal problems we are facing? Am I bullshitting myself?
But should bullshit only be considered as something negative? In the political field, for instance, it seems that a certain amount of bullshit tends to soften international relations which are under tension. Take for example the relationship between North Korea and the USA; threats that are made by a bullshitter are taken much less serious than those made by a serious person. A bullshitter is held less accountable for what he says or does than a liar—when he is caught in the act. Is a bit of bullshit a good ingredient for maintaining world peace?
And what if we look at the economy; if bullshit was to vanish from the advertising industry, how would that impact our consumerist based economy? We can dislike bullshit or consumerism, but what concessions are we really willing to make if we could get rid of bullshit as a consequence?
However, there is another problem that a prevalence of bullshit creates. For apart from being an intentional product, bullshit is also a linguistic expression. Since language is our primary means of communication, it is meant to express truths as a condition of communication. What would happen if we simply can no longer discern what might be true or false? The more we are surrounded by bullshit (just as with fake news), the less we can trust in language as a conveyer of truth. To put it this way; because of bullshit, the function of our language gradually disappears.
For this evening, we will place bullshit within a conceptual framework, and look into the ways that bullshitting have direct implications for our shared world and environment. Central questions are:
What does “bullshit” mean, and what is the role of language?
How can we recognize bullshit (in our daily lives)?
What can we do to prevent bullshit?
Should we even prevent, diminish, or get rid of bullshit?
Is a world without bullshit a better world?
Can we find strong, ethical principles that might serve as guidelines to eradicate bullshit from our own lives? To prevent ourselves from bullshitting our way through?
Text by Pieter Booij.
Anita van Rootselaar is a journalist and writer. She studied Journalism at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht; Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Utrecht, majoring in Philosophy; and Political Philosophy (RMA) at the Radboud University in Nijmegen.
Pieter Booij is a philosopher specialised in logic and the foundations of mathematics. In addition, he has followed a teacher training at the University of Utrecht. Pieter turns the conceptual into the comprehensible by offering concrete examples.
An evening with (once again) a wide range of questions, a playing field to explore the conceptual as well as the practical implications of bullshitting—for everyone who follows the news with raised eyebrows.
Location will be Bookshop Walter in Arnhem.
Tickets can be purchased at the door, pin and cash.
Pre-ordering a ticket recommended ( limited seats)
Tickets can be bought here with Ideal : https://www.eventbrite.com/e/framing-bullshit-tickets-52443018480
Initially, the discussion will be in English
Doors open at 19:15. Start programme 19:30 till 21:30.
Arnhem, 6811 AV