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what bullshitting is

2010-12-27

Bullshit is, in one of its forms, a product of an intellectually dishonest posture, one, more particularly, that includes an unwillingness to respond in an honest way to criticism. Bullshitting is not the same thing as dogmatism. To be sure, the dogmatist maintains his belief in the face of all criticism, but an honest dogmatist is possible, who responds to criticism as best he can, and who might even admit that he has no good response to a particular criticism, while nevertheless sticking to his dogmatically held view. The bullshitter, by contrast, may be ready to change his position, and he often does so under critical assault. But he does not take precise measure of the force of that assault in order to alter his position in a controlled and scientifically indicated way. He simply shifts to another unthought-through and/or obscure position, in order to remain undefeated (which is the chief thing, for a bullshitter). The dogmatist stands his ground, while the bullshitter is prepared to shift ground at any time.

G. A. Cohen.

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