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[Postponed to ET] 'Lying, bullshit and Desinformatsiya'

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  • UserChristopher Heffer (Cardiff University)
  • ClockThursday 24 March 2022, 16:30-18:00
  • HouseOnline.

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Note that this talk has been postponed to ET. More information will be sent out/this will updated in due course.

Untruthfulness in discourse involves often complex relations between language, mind and world. Thus, while researchers agree to define lying as a ‘believed-false assertion’, it is quite another thing (as jurors know) to establish that a given speaker believed their assertion to be false. Similarly, one can define bullshit, after Frankfurt (2005), as an indifference to the truth, but how do we distinguish in practice between indifference and naïve sincerity? And where do we place disinformation in an account of untruthfulness? Such questions have, for the most part, been shunned by discourse analysts. But, accordingly, we lack the tools for analyzing the myriad of untruthful statements we are all immersed in today.

In this talk I suggest that the key category when analyzing untruthful discourse is not lying (the philosophical obsession) but bullshit, and not rhetorical bullshitting, where the speaker knows what they are doing, but dogmatic bullshit that the speaker may sincerely believe. I then apply the account of untruthfulness in Heffer (2020) to Russian disinformation, or dezinformatsiya, in the Skripal poisoning case and the Ukraine war.

References: Frankfurt, H. (2005) On Bullshit. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press. Heffer, C. (2020) All Bullshit and Lies? Insincerity, Irresponsibility and the Judgment of Untruthfulness. New York: Oxford University Press.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society (LingSoc) series.

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