You Can Now Take A University Course In How To Spot Bullsh*t, And It Couldn't Be More Timely

In an age of fake news where the term "post-truth" is used to define and influence politics, and "fake news" is so rife it's almost trending, it's no surprise to find that two professors actually run a course in how to recognize bullshit called Calling Bullshit. The two academics are from the University of Washington and their names are Carl T. Bergstrom, UW Department of Biology, and Jevin West, UW Information School.

But if you can't make it over to their seminar, don't worry, because the entire curriculum, including links to academic texts about bullshit and case studies, are online for you to swat up on.

Texts like those of American philosopher Harry Frankfurt who wrote a New York Times Best Seller about it. Originally an essay published in 1986 On Bullshit it was eventually published as a book in 2005. The video above, which features Frankfurt, gives you a flavor of what his essay is like.

While that was a bestseller over 10 years ago, in the Donald Trump age it now seems more relevant that ever to brush up on what bullshit means, how you can spot it, how you can avoid it, and how you can fight it.

Here's some text from Bergstrom and West's course prospectus.

The world is awash in bullshit. Politicians are unconstrained by facts. Science is conducted by press release. So-called higher education often rewards bullshit over analytic thought. Startup culture has elevated bullshit to high art. Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullshit, then take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with second-order bullshit. The majority of administrative activity, whether in private business or the public sphere, often seems to be little more than a sophisticated exercise in the combinatorial reassembly of bullshit.

We're sick of it. It's time to do something, and as educators, one constructive thing we know how to do is to teach people. So, the aim of this course is to help students navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combatting it with effective analysis and argument.

You can learn more about their course over on the Calling Bullshit website.

BULLSHIT Harry Frankfurt

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