Philosophy Index

Harry Frankfurt

Harry Frankfurt (1929— ) is perhaps best known to the public for his recent books, On Bullshit and On Truth. On Bullshit was originally written in 1986 as a paper, and was published in 2005 as a book. The brief text became a bestseller, and Frankfurt wrote On Truth as a follow up. The first book is a philosophical investigation into the specific sort of deception, while the follow-up discusses the apparent decline in society’ value of the truth. Frankfurt received some fame by appearing on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart twice as a guest, once for each of these books.

Free will and responsibility

In philosophy, Frankfurt is perhaps best known for his ideas on the topic of free will and moral responsibility. He provided the Frankfurt counterexamples to the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP). These examples featured people who had no real choice of whether or not they would perform some morally impermissible act, but nevertheless demonstrated some sense of free will in their decision.

Frankfurt is a professor emeritus at Princeton University, and has also taught at Yale and Rockefeller universities.

Selected Works

  • “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility” (1969)
  • “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of the Person” (1971)
  • On Bullshit (2005)
  • On Truth (2006)


Name: Harry G. Frankfurt
Born: May 29, 1929
Degrees: Ph.D. (John Hopkins, 1954)