Is postmodernism just pretentious chatter


Bullshit is a vulgar word that describes a certain type of talk that is pretentious in its gesture, but empty in terms of content. The etymology of the English word bullshit, which is used both as a noun and as a verb, has not been clearly clarified, because it can literally be translated as bull or bull shit, but it is more likely to use the old French bole (Deception) and Icelandic bull (Nonsense) related. Bullshit thus defines an utterance or assertion without considering the truth content, and differs from that lie by the fact that a lie has a relation to the truth, which is consciously twisted or covered up. With bullshit, on the other hand, it depends on the attention and the material is indifferent, i. That is, it can be half-truths, rumors or stale prejudices, because that is what counts Arousal potential of bullshit, because bullshit primarily wants to impress the recipient. Bullshitters like to use pretentious, pseudo-profound and pseudo-scientific language that is teeming with vague terminology, tautologies and neologisms. The term bullshit was introduced into the scientific discourse by Harry Frankfurt in 1986 in his essay “On Bullshit” in the Raritan Quarterly Review. In his opinion, a bullshitter is characterized by the fact that he does not even care whether his talk is related to reality.

“In the academic milieu, the most important motives for bullshitting are often particularly pronounced: showing off and being self-important. The physicist Alan Sokal proved this in a bullshit experiment in 1996: He wrote a completely absurdly meaningless text about the fact that gravity is only a “social construct”. His article was bursting with fashionable postmodern jargon and quantum physics terms - and appealed to the editors and readers of the cultural studies journal Social Text. Nobody noticed the nonsense until Sokal disclosed everything in his book Eleganter Nonsense and initiated an intense bullshit discussion. Not particularly sustainable: The sociologist Peter Dreier recently pulled off a similar number: He submitted the abstract of a lecture to a specialist congress of the International Society for Social Studies (with the already very bullshit-suspicious title On the Absence of Absences), which was published as pure bullshit was created: pseudo-sociological ramblings, garnished with fictitious Heideger (sic!) quotes. He was invited, we are really looking forward to his exciting lecture ”(Ernst, 2016).

See also the Dr. Fox Effect: “In 1970, Myron L. Fox gave a lecture to an assembled group of experts with the impressive title“ The Application of Mathematical Game Theory in the Training of Physicians ”. And for those attending the University of Southern California School of Medicine continuing education program, Fox was introduced as "the authority on the application of mathematics to human behavior." He impressed the audience with his skillful appearance so that none of them noticed: The man was an actor and had no idea about game theory. All Fox had done was turn a technical article on game theory into a lecture that consisted entirely of vague talk, made up words, and contradicting statements that he delivered with great humor and pointless references to other work. "

See also Volker Ladenthin: Working on the dummy.

Petrocelli (2021) has now shown that weak arguments, if they are masked and presented using bullshit phrases, ultimately do not work very convincingly. In a study, subjects were asked to examine arguments for various positions that contained either strong or weak arguments and were either clearly formulated or formulated in sentences with foreign words. It turned out that bullshit only helps if you hardly have any arguments on your side. In the author's opinion, this is probably due to the fact that the noise of words reduces the motivation to deal with the content of what has been said and to really examine the arguments. Instead, the periphery of the argument is more effective, i. In other words, if the argument sounds important, if the source inspires confidence, there is a certain ideological proximity to the content. If a discussant has very good arguments and convincing evidence on his side, but presents them in complicated jargon and fashionable terms, it tends to reduce his chances of reaching others.


Ernst, H. (2016). Risk of blackout. Or: what the cop leaves behind.
Psychology Today March 15th.
Petrocelli, John V. (2021). Bullshitting and persuasion: The persuasiveness of a disregard for the truth. British Journal of Social Psychology, doi: 10.1111 / bjso.12453. (21-04-06) (19-12-12)

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