Harry Frankfurt's "On Bullshit"
One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, or attracted much sustained inquiry. Another worthwhile source is the title essay in The Prevalence of Humbug by Max Black. Humbug: deceptive misrepresentation, short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed, of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes. A very similar formulation might plausibly be offered as enunciating the essential characteristics of bullshit. Deceptive misrepresentation: This may sound pleonastic. Short of lying: It must be part of the point of saying that humbug is “short of lying,” that while it has some of the distinguishing characteristics of lies, there are others that it lacks.