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. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, we have no theory. I propose to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit, mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis.

Scholarly approach to the sociology and psychology of bullshit, it’s significance in American culture. Rather longish essay – and especially useful, I feel, in an election year.

Saudi Islamic scholar issues fatwa – banning snowmen

Harbin snow festival
Click to enlargeBetter stay away from Harbin in the winter

A fatwa issued by Saudi religious scholar Mohammad Saleh Al Minjed bans the creation of snowmen, saying it is too western of a practice.

“It is not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun,” said the fatwa.

After a snow storm on the Arabian Peninsula, children started building snow-camels — a rare incident that inspired the fatwa.

Supporters of the fatwa say the creation of snowmen or snow camels, rather, is a crude imitation of the West…

The camels, built in the northern part of the country, were a nod to the local culture.

“We have snow for fleeting days, maybe even hours, and there is always someone who wants to rob us of the joy and the fun,” said opposing blogger Mishaal.

It seems that the only thing left for us is to sit down and drink coffee.”

Be satisfied you can do that, Mishaal. We have fundamentalist religions in the US that won’t let you drink coffee.

Black professor harrassed by cops – in his own home – with ID – because they suspected he broke in!


The Cambridge Police Department view of a Black scholar

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation’s pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.

Police arrived at Gates’ Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.

He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a police report. Gates accused the investigating officer of being a racist.

Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver’s license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody…

The arrest of such a prominent scholar under what some described as dubious circumstances shook some members of the black Harvard community.

“He and I both raised the question of if he had been a white professor, whether this kind of thing would have happened to him, that they arrested him without any corroborating evidence,” said S. Allen Counter, a Harvard Medical School professor who spoke with Gates about the incident Friday. “I am deeply concerned about the way he was treated, and called him to express my deepest sadness and sympathy…”

Counter has faced a similar situation himself. The well-known neuroscience professor, who is also black, was stopped by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect as he crossed Harvard Yard. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.

The Cambridge Police will no doubt come up with whatever they feel is justification for arresting a man standing on his own property – telling the coppers to get off that property – when it’s already been established there is no crime in progress. Other than good old all-American racism.