Finding Oneself in the Other


Ralf M. Bader reviews G. A. Cohen's Finding Oneself in the Other, in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (the preface can be found here):

Chapter 5 'Complete Bullshit' combines the well-known paper 'Deeper into Bullshit' with the previously unpublished piece 'Why one kind of Bullshit flourishes in France'. In the first part Cohen distinguishes two different kinds of bullshit. On the one hand, there is the kind of bullshit that was the focus of Frankfurt's seminal work and that is concerned with the intentions and mental states of the person making an utterance, consisting in a certain disregard of or indifference to truth. On the other, there is the kind that Cohen is primarily concerned: that which has to do with the meaning (or lack thereof) of what is asserted, and which consists in the unclarity of a statement that cannot be rendered clear. The second part of the paper then explains the prevalence of Cohen-bullshit in France in terms of factors such as the monolithic academic culture centred on Paris, a preoccupation with style, and the presence of a large lay audience interested in philosophy.

While Cohen does not provide an analysis of what it is for a statement to be unclarifiable, he puts forward a sufficient condition (which he attributes to Arthur Brown), namely “that adding or subtracting (if it has one) a negation sign from a text makes no difference to its level of plausibility: no force in a statement has been grasped if its putative grasper would react no differently to its negation from how he reacts to the original statement.”