Sunday, May 08, 2005


Schopenhauer On Bullshit

The Guardian reports that Arthur Schopenhauer's posthumously published 1896 edition of The Art of Always Being Right: Thirty-Eight Ways To Win When You Are Defeated has been reissued in paperback:

We are here presented with 38 different ploys commonly used in disputation, which work to produce victory, regardless of where the truth lies. The motivation of the essay is rage and disgust at the horribleness of false arguments.... For the tricks he describes are meant to persuade not just the opponent but, more importantly, the audience of the dispute. The crucial question is who will be seen to come off best. Who will win votes?

Many of the 38 tricks are easily recognisable. The fun of the book is the attempt the reader inevitably makes to fit modern examples to the named ploys.... One of my favourites, number 31.... is called 'This is beyond me'. You win, and win over the audience, by declaring yourself to be lost in your opponent's subtle philosophising. 'What you now say passes my poor powers of comprehension. It may all be very true, but I can't understand it.' This appeals to the Plain Man and makes your opponent look arrogant.

Well, I can't imagine what prominent politician in our country that would describe.

Despite the popularity of On Bullshit -- and despite the immense and enduring popularity of bullshit itself -- I don't see an American edition. We certainly could use one. Maybe if they slightly altered the title to The Art of Always Being Right Wing ...

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