Sokal is best known for the Sokal affair , in which he submitted a deliberately absurd article  to Social Text , a critical theory journal, and was able to get it published. The book was published in French in , and in English in ; the English editions were revised for greater relevance to debates in the English-speaking world. According to some reports, the response within the humanities was "polarized". Responses from the scientific community were more supportive. The stated goal of the book is not to attack "philosophy, the humanities or the social sciences in general Sokal and Bricmont set out to show how those intellectuals have used concepts from the physical sciences and mathematics incorrectly.
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Jean-Francois Abgrall was a senior detective in the French police. He developed an extraordinary reputation for his psychological insights into criminal behaviour. He is now a private detective. Imposturas Intelectuais Babel TinyCat. Toggle Dropdown Advanced Search.
Imposturas Intelectuais by Alan Sokal Book, Status Available. Call number Tags essay , social sciences. Publication Lisboa, Gradiva , pg. Description Jean-Francois Abgrall was a senior detective in the French police. User reviews LibraryThing member ElectricRay. Before I start, let me nail my colours to the mast: I'm pro-science, I'm pro-evolution, I really like the idea of rational enquiry and I'm a sceptic bordering on the cynical.
Now we've got that cleared up, let me say it straight: This book takes on some big arguments, but, other than humorously swatting some flies, loses hands down. All it succeeds in doing is illustrating that there are fakers, losers, charlatans and wankers to be found in the Social Sciences departments of any given University. Anyone who's been to university and didn't know that deserves a clip around the ear and to be sent to the back of the class.
That might seem like good sport, but before long it becomes obvious it's a cheap thrill. Having said that, I sincerely doubt that the titillation of seeing dumb French Feminists taken apart is what made this book such a splash: I think it's because of Sokal's purported intent: to undermine the notion of cognitive relativism, especially as it associated with modern philosophy of science, in particular the work of Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend.
This is the battle: Sokal aligns with those who say scientists are the exclusive purveyors of a shining light called truth; the Barbarians at the gate are these simpering postmodernists who want to tear the temple down. While the poseurs cited in this book are certainly for the most part phoneys or idiots, I think Thomas Kuhn was neither, and while Paul Feyerabend overplayed the court jester hand, he had some important things to say too.
All you have established is that you have a found yourself a charlatan. Give yourself a star. But while you're pinning it on, remember that postmodernists do not have a monopoly on illogical, bamboozling, balderdash: Example: Sir Roger Penrose Emeritus Rouse Ball professor of mathematics at Oxford University, no less and his dreadful, lumpen-headed, and deliberately bamboozling anti-AI tract "The Emperor's New Mind".
The very point of the no doubt correct but nonetheless entirely irrelevant science deluged on the reader in that book is to obscure the fact that the real emperor was Roger Penrose and his arguments on AI really blow the kumara.
Example: Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker's Linguistic Nativism, which has held sway for a good thirty years in many linguistics departments, and is anything but post-modern: nativism holds that humans have an innate understanding of grammar hard wired into their biology. From my paltry readings in linguistics and the philosophy of language, my impression is that Pinker's and Chomsky's arguments are seriously flawed.
See: Sampson: "The Language Instinct Debate" for a thorough linguistic critique of nativism; see Rorty: "Contingency Irony, and Solidarity" for a philosophical perspective on the contingency of language. Make note of this example, as it becomes relevant later on. Secondly, Sokal and Bricmont quite deliberately refuse to engage on certain topics, in particular on cultural or aesthetic relativism, which they say without providing a reason "raise very different issues".
Take that star away, for this statement betrays a fundamental misunderstanding about relativism. Thirdly, Sokal provides the following account of cognitive relativism: "While scientists That is, in the trade, known as a straw-man argument: You set it up to knock it over.
Here goes: P1: Relativists say science is a waste of time P2: Science helps us reliably predict and react coherently to phenomena occurring in the world P3: Things which help to predict and react to such phenomena have genuine utility C1: Therefore, science has genuine utility C2: Ergo, science is not a waste of time Case closed. Is relativism dead? No: the problem is, most relativists I know would completely agree with all of the above argument except for premise 1.
The cat is most definitely still out of the bag. In a nutshell, all reasonably stated relativism says is that you can't know that your theory actually maps onto the actual configuration of the outside world; it may, it may not: logically there will always be some other possible explanation for the same set of data, however implausible or difficult to imagine, and in part that difficulty in imagination may be a function of the historical contingency of our belief in, and description of the world in terms of, the current "paradigm".
Though Sokal and Bricmont may disagree, I don't think this is controversial amongst philosophers nor, really, scientists.
Lastly, in criticising an admittedly utterly ludicrous passage bestowed on the world by that splendidly silly feminist philosopher Julia Kristeva, Sokal makes the following footnote: " Kristeva seems to be appealing This thesis nowadays is sharply criticised by some linguists: see, for example Pinker The implication is that the Sapir-Whorf thesis as to the contingency of language has been discredited, but by none other than Steven Pinker in his "The Language Instinct" which, as per the above, is at the very least a controversial piece of writing.
This is an extremely important point, since it's utterly central to the credibility of the anti-relativist cause, and if one takes Geoffrey Sampson's book cited above at face value the nativist claims themselves are built on very suspect reasoning and scientific research. It seems to me and to writers like Richard Rorty that language must radically condition our view of the world, because that's the only basis on which we can even describe it.
At the end of the day, properly stated cognitive relativism is no a threat to modern scientific discourse, except that it relegates the scientist from "truth knower" or "person through whom you may have exclusive access to the truth" sounds a bit like a grand high pooh-bah or - dare I say it - high priest, doesn't it?
So it makes the knee-jerk reactions against relativism, from the likes of Sokal and elsewhere Richard Dawkins, all the more mystifying. LibraryThing member M. Not to far after telling someone what it was I studied, they will ultimately bring up 'that guy who debunked post-modern philosophy by publishing a hoax article It gets a bit silly very quickly. Mostly because these people have very little idea; of the claims of post-modern philosophy; of who specifically is debunked in this book and why; that publishing a hoax article does little more than prove the journals lack of credibility a point Sokal himself emphasizes in this book ; or for that matter the possibility of debunking an entire branch of anything.
The people who cite this book lauding or detracting have likely never read it, something that can be proven with a quick glance at the Amazon reviews. This is something of a shame, as this book should certainly be required reading, particularly in the humanities departments that do their best to keep their heads in the sand about it. The quick points are this; the book is very accessible and the arguments are clear and well-reasoned.
But there are very many finer points to go over as well. The most important of which is that this book does very little to dismantle, or for that matter even attack, post-modern philosophy. BY analogy, were there a person who used a scientifically accurate or inaccurate, as it were narrative to argue for eugenics, would you take a rebuttal towards that as an attack biology as a discipline?
Lacan, Kristeva, and Deleuze are not the culmination of philosophy, nor are they very representative of it. So much as Sokal applies a razor to their poor use of science, there is little lost and much gained. And we should note that no one in this text is suggesting to let the baby slip down the drain, but merely pointing out that some of this bathwater has gotten rather murky.
Again, I liked this book. I think it should be required reading in the humanities. I have read enough of the author mentioned in it to know that they often do put forth some nonsense. But I recognize that no one can get everything right. Hell, even Sokal and Bricmont get somethings wrong - in this very text.
LibraryThing member daschaich. An important message, but not enjoyable reading : In , New York University physicist Alan Sokal wrote a paper, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity", discussing how theories of quantum gravity prove that physical 'reality' is merely a social construction and exploring the resulting progressive political implications and the need for a new "liberatory postmodern science" and mathematics.
On the day it was published by the journal Social Text, Sokal revealed that it was nonsense: nothing more than "a melange of truths, half-truths, quarter-truths, falsehoods, non sequiturs, and syntactically correct sentences that have no meaning whatsoever", along with a large number of regrettably accurate fawning quotations of the editors of Social Text and other postmodern luminaries How shocking.
Troubled in the mids by reports of 'postmodern' intellectuals abusing scientific concepts in their work, Sokal did some research and found plenty of examples.
A few were incorporated into his hoax, but there was not room for many of them there. To complement "Transgressing the Boundaries", Sokal and Bricmont compiled many of the most flagrant cases of scientific abuse into this volume, accompanied by clear explanations of what is wrong with the examples considered and how they are abusive.
All are represented through lengthy extracts from their offending works. Many reviewers of this volume have claimed to find the nonsense spouted by these individuals inadvertently hilarious. I personally found it more depressing and often painful to read their twisted prose with at least a partially open mind. I couldn't bring myself to enjoy the book, though I recognize the service it does in battling obscurantism and abuse of scientific terminology.
In addition there are three 'intermezzos': one on epistemic relativism in the philosophy of science that didn't overly impress me, as well as two more entertaining chapters on abuse and confusion related to chaos theory and Godel's theorem. Finally, "Fashionable Nonsense" includes Sokal's "Transgressing the Boundaries" and some related material in appendices. As a second edition, Sokal and Bricmont have a valuable opportunity to clear up ambiguities and misunderstandings as well as address criticism of the original French "Impostures Intellectuelles".
For instance, they are able to emphasize repeatedly that their purpose isn't to challenge postmodern philosophy as such, only "to denounce intellectual posturing and dishonesty" 16 as related to scientific concepts. In addition, they note that 'postmodernism' is not a strictly accurate term and is used in part "for convenience" 14 and refute accusations of being right-wing reactionary American intellectual imperialists Sokal's leftist credentials include a pilgrimage to Nicaragua in the '80s to teach mathematics under the Sandinistas.
While the mids furor over the 'science wars' seems to have died down, "Fashionable Nonsense" still performs a valuable service in exposing and debunking abuse of science, expanding the critique introduced by Sokal's hoax.
Though I didn't find the book enjoyable reading, it effectively delivers an important message and constructive critique. LibraryThing member jorgearanda. This is a necessary book that exposes the gibberish of many prominent postmodern philosophers.
Its case is clear, and I am glad Sokal and Bricmont went through the trouble of wading through their literature to build such a solid argument. Their arguments on epistemologists Kuhn and Feyerabend are far weaker, though. LibraryThing member ecw It was part of an elaborate hoax and parody that Sokal was perpetrating on those who subscribe to "epistemic relativism," i.
Sokal, a renowned physicist, by filling his article with scientific balderdash and liberally citing the editors of Social Text David Lodge's Law of Academic Life says "It is impossible to be excessive in flattery of one's peers. Fashionable Nonsense expands the revelations behind the parody and thoroughly reveals the emperor's nakedness. The authors, by analysis of several postmodernist French philosophers, show how they misuse, misrepresent, and misunderstand basic science.
Sokal and Bricmont disclose how "deliberately obscure language" is used to hide confused thinking, that often if something is difficult to understand in the writings of these philosophers it's because they aren't saying anything. Postmodernism, a trend fashionable in some social science and humanist circles, adopts the view that rejects the rationalism of the enlightenment and proposes that science is a "social construction" or "narration" and that there is no need to look for empirical evidence.
Unfortunately, much of postmodernist "thinking" has become associated with the left, a linkage Sokal abhors. He wants to defend the Left from a trendy segment of itself. As Michael Albert, wrote for Z Magazine, "There is nothing truthful, wise, human, or strategic about confusing hostility with injustice and oppression, which is leftist, with hostility to science and rationality, which is nonsense.
It must have been understandable and made sense. In it Sokal wrote, "I confess that I am an unabashed Old Leftist who never quite understood how deconstruction was supposed to help the working class. And I'm a stodgy old scientist who believes, naively, that there exists an external world, that there exist objective truths about that world, and that my job is to discover some of them.