Wednesday, November 02, 2005

They Became What They Beheld

This is a classic. Very, very amusing.
But, I'm pretty sure that they're serious. I got it from HNet and there is no comedy on there. Also, if you know the world of academic publishing/ conferences, this is not very surprising. Sadly, we get these sort of "next big thing" pitches all the time. (As if "popular interest" should be our criterion for studying a topic!) Sometimes I think that we're a few steps away from selling televisions off the back of a truck. So, yes, here's the latest academic gravy train... Bullshit.
I know. I know. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

From: "Hardcastle, Gary"
Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2005 18:33:13 -0400
Subject: Call For Abstracts
A Companion to Bullshit
Call For Abstracts
October 19,2005
George Reisch and Gary Hardcastle (editors)

Popular interest in bullshit might be approaching an all-time high. It is reflected, for example, in Harry Frankfurt¹s bestselling On Bullshit (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005) and Laura Penny¹s spirited Your Call Is Very Important to Us (Crown, 2005), not to mention the popular media¹s eager response to these books.

To philosophers, though, bullshit, and reflection upon it, is nothing new. Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and Kant, not to mention the French positivists of the 19th century and the logical empiricists of the 20th, analyzed and critiqued speech and writing that they suspected was not merely void of content, but intended to distract, deceive, manipulate, or oppress. And, as we know,
they took their analyses and critiques to be central to their philosophical projects. As a result, we have before us an occasion in which widespread popular attention is directed toward a topic with a rich philosophical history, and about which today¹s professional philosophers have something to say. We thus propose an edited volume of original reflections upon and analyses of
bullshit from epistemological, ethical, metaphysical, historical, and political points of view.

A Companion to Bullshit will serve as a guide and resource for the many who find bullshit worth thinking about and will, moreover, provide a venue for philosophers to continue participating in this public discussion.

Prospective contributors to A Companion to Bullshit are invited to submit an abstract of up to 1000 words for a scholarly essay of 8,000-10,000 words. We encourage contributors to strive for high scholarly quality while writing for a broad educated audience. We welcome any abstract that engages the philosophical dimensions of bullshit, but we especially seek contributions
that take up one or more of the following questions:
¬ What is Bullshit? Harry Frankfurt makes use of the tools and concepts of
natural language philosophy to distinguish bullshit and lying. Many other
philosophers have likewise offered definitions of bullshit, although with
different tools and often by a different name. Should any of these
conceptions be adopted? Should the project be approached from different
philosophical traditions, or abandoned altogether? What sociological or
psychological factors and circumstances, if any, might play a role in
defining bullshit?

¬ What Does Bullshit Do? Particular philosophical perspectives or
philosophical problems assign a particular function to bullshit. What are
the advantages and disadvantages of these various points of view, and which
is best? Could bullshit be eliminated? Ought it to be, if it could?

¬ Bullshit: Past and Future. What is the relationship of bullshit to
philosophy and its history? Does the popular fascination with bullshit
evidence some notable convergence of popular and philosophical goals and
values? Or is it best understood as a temporary and recurring interest or
fashion? Why now, precisely, has bullshit taken center stage in popular
culture? And what might this say about philosophy¹s place in popular

The editors are presently negotiating a contract with an established publisher of philosophy monographs, one that shares our vision of A Companion to Bullshit as a collection of serious essays that nonetheless responds in a timely manner to this popular interest in bullshit. In hopes that the volume will be published during the fall of 2006, please submit abstracts by December 1, 2005 to both George Reisch and Gary Hardcastle
Gary Hardcastle
Department of Philosophy
Executive Director, Institute for Culture and Society
Bakeless Hall 217A
Bloomsburg University
Bloomsburg, PA 17815
O: (570) 389-4174
Fax: (570) 389-2094


Gravity Decides said...

Can I just state that this is absolutely serious - some of most respected moral and social philosophers of the twentieth/twenty-first century have written on this topic. Bullshit is not being pitched as the next big thing, but rather as one big problem that, it is deemed, philosophy can have sme hand in undoing. The words used may be titilating, but read some of the work on bullshit... its not just trendy philosophical time-wasting...

Rufus said...

Truth is always a serious issue, and I have no doubt that the writings are serious, especially Harry Frankfurt's. But, I still have a hard time taking as absolutely serious a pitch on an academic listserv that advocates writing about the subject at hand by telling us that popular interest in it is at an all-time high, suggesting that we should take advantage of this particular gravy train. Please re-read the pitch- it is, at the very least, pitching bullshit as the current big thing, and somehow especially worthy of interest because of the popular demand. Which I still find to be crassly capitalistic.

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