The Department of Philosophy, as part of our weekly Speaker Series, is pleased to welcome Dr. Tim Kenyon (Brock).
Talk title: Bald-Faced Bullshit and Authoritarian Political Speech: Making Sense of Johnson and Trump by Tim Kenyon and Jennifer Saul
Abstract: Jennifer Saul and I observe that some recent examples of authoritarian political speech are usefully viewed as bullshit, especially that of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. But a few refinements and additions to Harry Frankfurt’s framework are needed. For one thing, bullshitting shouldn’t be defined in strict opposition to lying, since many lies also count as bullshit – in particular, many bald-faced lies, so obviously lies that they’re uttered without serious intent to deceive. And that in turn means that bullshit needn’t be a concealed project – political bullshitters like Trump, we argue, actually require that their bullshit be seen as such, because it is intended to excite a political base by explicitly targeting the bullshit at a shared class of social and political enemies. It is bald-faced bullshit. Yet the same speech may also function as a garden-variety deceptive lie to a less informed element of the audience. By making space for bald-faced bullshit, and taking account of the multiple audiences of mass political communication, we can offer explanations for some important effects of political bullshit, including how it can simultaneously be lying and bullshitting, and why it can be obvious bullshitting and yet very successful.