Acta Cogitata: An Undergraduate Journal in Philosophy


In this essay I analyze a passage from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s On Certainty. This excerpt contains the expression “O, rubbish!” (Ach Unsinn), which I consider to be closely related to the notions of “bullshit” developed by Harry Frankfurt and Gerald A. Cohen. The relevance of this essay is illustrated with lively examples, both related to contemporary society and identified by Wittgenstein about 70 years ago. The paper is organized in six sections containing 1) an introduction to the topic, 2) an explanation of “bullshit” as found in the works of Frankfurt and Cohen, 3) an explanation of Wittgenstein’s work on certainty and propositions beyond doubt, 4) an identification of reasonable and unreasonable doubt and their connection to “bullshit”, 5) an explanation of the different kinds of “bullshit” with the intention of mapping them in relation to each other, and 6) a summarizing conclusion. The main purpose of this paper is to expound on Wittgenstein’s views on “bullshit” and relate them to contemporary philosophy of nonsense.

One might simply say “O, rubbish!” to someone who wanted to make objections to the propositions that are beyond doubt. That is, not reply to him but admonish him. (OC 495)

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