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Bullshit als pragmatische Kategorie 

Meibauer, J??rg

Linguistische Berichte (LB), Bd. 2013 (2013), Iss. 235: S. 3–28

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Meibauer, J??rg


This paper addresses the question whether “bullshit” is a reasonable pragmatic category. Drawing on insights of Harry Frankfurt's seminal essay On Bullshit (2005), bullshit is defined as an act of insincere asserting where the speaker shows (a) a loose concern for the truth, (b) does not want the addressee to become aware of condition (a), and (c) expresses more certainty than is adequate with respect to condition (a). This approach is illustrated with several examples of putative pieces of bullshit. Potential counter-arguments against the spirit of Frankfurt's approach ventured by Carson (2010) are refuted. The paper points out that condition (c) may have to do with humorous effects of bullshit. Furthermore, it is argued that Colin McGinn's notion of “mindfucking”, as developed in his Mindfucking: A Critique of Mental Manipulation (2008) does not lend itself easily to a speech act analysis in analogy to bullshit.