Epistemically Exploitative Bullshit: A Sartrean Account

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Fulltext

    Final published version, 1.67 MB, PDF document

This paper presents a novel conceptualization of a type of untruthful speech that is of eminent political relevance but has hitherto been unrecognized: epistemically exploitative bullshit (EEB). Speakers engaging in EEB are bullshitting: they deceive their addressee regarding their unconcern for the very difference between truth and falsity. At the same time, they exploit their discursive victims: they oblige their counterparts to perform unacknowledged and emotionally draining epistemic work to educate the speakers about the addressees' oppression, only to discredit their epistemic trustworthiness. I argue that EEB is irreducible to various recently discussed untruthful speech, and in particular to Frankfurtian bullshit, as well as to epistemic exploitation or other epistemic injustices. Taking inspiration from Sartre's analysis of anti-Semitic discourse, where bullshitting and epistemic exploitation are essentially interlinked, I instead suggest that recognizing the distinctiveness of EEB allows for a more refined conceptualization of these discursive phenomena. Specifically, I show how bad faith and the ensuing collective diffusion and delegation of epistemic responsibility play a so far neglected but key role here. I ultimately demonstrate that with Sartre's help, we can grasp how the existential, interpersonal and institutional dimensions involved in the negotiation of truth seamlessly intersect better than we would with the lens of analytic or critical epistemology alone.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Philosophy
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)711-730
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2023

ID: 307528693