Catherine Chimley – Personal Accountability and Personal Perspective

Option 2: What’s the most effective way to reduce the amount of bullshit in contemporary discourse? Be sure to use Frankfurt’s specific notion of bullshit—so in that sense, the question is really asking: What’s the best way to get people to care about truth when they speak or write?

In order to reduce bullshit in contemporary discourse, it is essential to facilitate a socio-political environment in which it is more widely acceptable to admit one’s own mistakes. When people bullshit, they value the perception of themselves more than the truth – actively choosing to ignore or adapt the truth in order to fit a personally beneficial narrative. With admission of mistakes or gaps in one’s own knowledge, however, the urge to bullshit is actively rejected in favor of truth. I saw an example of this during a Democratic Primary Debate, when candidate Pete Buttigieg responded to a question about the racially related tensions in South Bend, Indiana – an officer-involved shooting while he was serving as mayor generated serious controversy, especially in his handling of the police responses to the shooting. Buttigieg responded to the question about why the South Bend police force remained disproportionately white under his mayorship without bullshit – no diatribes about complexity of police hiring or racial relations in Indiana to excuse his actions, but simply and bluntly stated “I just couldn’t get it done. It’s a mess, and we’re hurting.” This admission is remarkable in the political sphere for its lack of bullshit – there is not benefit for Buttigieg in admitting his inability to solve the racial crisis in South Bend. Although admission of mistake isn’t the only way to reduce bullshit in our society, societal norms stressing perfection and competition contribute to the prevalence of bullshit. If these norms were reduced in order to allow for a focus on the truth rather than personal gain, our society could reduce the prevalence of bullshit.

Option 3: In my lecture on Thursday, I’ll spend part of the time recapping Unit 2. In your post, ask a question about any part of Unit 2. Time permitting, I’ll address some of these in lecture. Aim for about a paragraph: in addition to asking the question, explain why you’re asking it—that is, why did you find this puzzling? You might also speculate briefly on what the answer might be.

In what ways does personal perspective influence communication? Throughout Unit 2, a central question for me has been the role of our preconceptions in our communication with others – whether through translation, scientific communication, or the idea of bullshit. I am interested in this question because I have often wondered whether or not it is possible to create a fully unbiased perspective on any issue. As well, many of humanity’s issues have been either partially caused or impacted by gaps in communication – between nations, religious differences, political movements, and personal conflicts. Therefore, I feel that the idea of communication and personal viewpoints is an interesting and crucial topic for exploration. With the examination of this question, we are better able to comprehend our own personal biases in communication and identify these biases in others – allowing for a world that becomes truly, comprehensively understanding of all.

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