Suppose that after finishing the reading, a student says: “Any belief, however unlikely it may appear, can be saved from refutation if you’re willing to make enough secondary elaborations.” Is the student right? Defend your answer. (For the term “secondary elaborations”, see p. 346.)
The student is right on the basis that secondary elaborations are the perception of errors in relation to the belief. Due to confirmation bias, people will be inclined to interpret any inconsistencies or faults in their belief as caused by errors whether in an experiment or caused by extenuating factors. It is easy to fault the unlikeliness of a belief to coincidental actions: an experiment was performed wrong, the weather affected the results, it was just a coincidence that it did not work right at the time. Considering this, the secondary elaborations will then save the belief from refutation as the individual or people who hold that belief will have what they deem as evidence that their belief is not false. While this evidence may not support the validity of their statement, it prevents the refutation of it, which is what will allow the belief to prevail. However, it is important to note that outsiders or those who do not share this belief may see these secondary elaborations as evidence denying the validity of the stated belief. If this is the case, then while the belief will be able to continue within the group who holds it, it may be refuted and die out in other circles who do not share it. Therefore, the belief is technically saved from refutation, but it is only guaranteed in a certain circle or level.
In reference to Frankfurt’s mentions of bull sessions, his specific notion of bullshit is the concept of bluffing through misrepresentation. In contemporary discourse, we claim that we value quality over quantity, but in actuality, a concise argument is sometimes viewed as weak as there is not as much evidence. Even if the evidence that is presented is strong, people often want to see all aspects of a situation or argument examined and countered or supported. Consequently, this has produced a pressure to produce ample evidence and knowledge on a topic, often to an extent that is unnecessary. It is easy to get lost in the redundant words and empty sentences, and with this, lose interest in the truth. A concise argument is a way to get people to care about the truth. The truth, or the lack of it, is clearly evident in a short point. With such blatancy, falsities will be less easily accepted. The desire for truth will become the priority, as it will become hard to turn a blind eye or be a passive reader and listener.