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The Cargo Cult of Business » Review: On Truth

Review: On Truth

Published on 7 Feb 2008 at 2:27 pm | No Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, Brain Trust.

On Truth
Harry G. Frankfurt

This book is, in the words of its author, "a sort of sequel to On Bullshit, or as an inquiry to which that work might serve as prolegomenon…"  While I find it a little less accessible than On Bullshit, it is by no means as impenetrable as the word prolegomenon might suggest.

In the lengthy introduction — I can’t avoid that description for a twelve page introduction to a book of less than a hundred pages — Mr. Frankfurt sets out his intent, which is to describe why bullshit is a problem, and why truth is preferable.

The ensuing chapters aren’t nearly as much fun as On Bullshit, but are still worthwhile. Mr. Frankfurt’s clear thinking translates into clear writing spiced with wit as he underlines not only the existence of truth but its utility.  

His penultimate chapter, in which he discusses truth as understood beyond the false statements of those in a relationship seems somewhat tangential to the rest of the book, and I’m inclined to regard it as an entertaining explication of a Shakespearean Sonnet more suited to an appendix than included in the main work.  It seems to me to do little to further the argument, though it is fun to read, and undoubtedly on topic.

Earlier in the book, especially in the introduction and first chapter, there are some wonderfully concise demolitions of postmodernism and magical thinking which are probably of little use in converting anyone who believes in those things, but are tremendous fun for those of us who are frustrated by them, and potentially useful to those on the fence who are looking for a way to think about these issues.  

All in all a quick and entertaining read, a worthy though lesser companion to On Bullshit, and a book with potential as a gift particularly for high school or college students.

My favorite excerpt from the book is quite lengthy, but here’s an excerpt from the excerpt:

    "It is well known, of course, that a cavalier attitude toward truth is more or less endemic within the ranks of publicists and politicians, breeds whose exemplars characteristically luxuriate in the production of bullshit, of lies, and of whatever other modes of fraudulence and fakery they are able to devise. This is old news and we are accustomed to it.
    "Recently though, a similar version of this attitude — or, indeed, a more extreme version of it — has become disturbingly widespread even within what might naively have been thought to be a more reliable class of people."


On Truth
-- John
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