Read Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science by Alan Sokal Online


In 1996 Physicist Alan Sokal published an essay in Social Text -- an influential academic journal of cultural studies -- touting the deep similarities between quantum gravitational theory and postmodern philosophy. Soon thereafter, the essay was revealed as a brilliant parody, a catalog of nonsense written in the cutting-edge but impenetrable lingo of postmodern theorists.In 1996 Physicist Alan Sokal published an essay in Social Text -- an influential academic journal of cultural studies -- touting the deep similarities between quantum gravitational theory and postmodern philosophy. Soon thereafter, the essay was revealed as a brilliant parody, a catalog of nonsense written in the cutting-edge but impenetrable lingo of postmodern theorists. The event sparked a furious debate in academic circles and made the headlines of newspapers in the U.S. and abroad.Now Sokal and his fellow physicist Jean Bricmont expand from where the hoax left off. In a delightfully witty and clear voice, the two thoughtfully and thoroughly dismantle the pseudo scientific writings of some of the most fashionable French and American intellectuals. More generally, they challenge the widespread notion that scientific theories are mere "narrations" or social constructions.At once provocative and measured, Fashionable Nonsense is a passionate defense of science and sense....

Title : Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science
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ISBN : 9780312195458
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 300 Pages
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Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science Reviews

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2019-05-16 19:03

    Impostures Intellectuelles = ‎Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science, c2003‬, Alan Sokal, Jean BricmontFashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science (French: Impostures Intellectuelles), published in the UK as Intellectual Impostures, is a book by physicists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont. 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.تاریخ نخستین خوانش: یازدهم ماه اکتبر سال 2009 میلادیعنوان: چرندیات پست مدرن؛ نویسنده: آلن سوکال؛ ژان بریکمون؛ مترجم: عرفان ثابتی؛ تهران، ققنوس، چاپ دوم 1387؛ در 399 ص؛ شابک: 9789643116149؛ چاپ سوم 1392؛ کتابنامه، نمایه، موضو, سوء استفاده روشنفکران پست مدرن از علم؛ قرن 21 مکتاب «چرندیات پست مدرن»، بنابه اظهارنظر نویسندگانش طوفان کوچکی در برخی حلقه‌ های روشنفکری به پا کرده است. آن‌ها نشان داده‌ اند که «فلسفه فرانسه‌ ی مدرن پر از مهملات قدیمی است» ولی جالب است بدانید که نویسندگان کتاب مدعی هستند روشنفکران مشهوری از قبیل: لاکان، کریستوا، ایریگاری، و بودریار، بطور مکرر از مفاهیم و واژگان علمی سوء استفاده کرده‌ اند یا ایده‌ های علمی را کاملاً خارج از بافت و زمینه ی خود به کار برده‌ اند و هیچ گونه دلیلی هم برای این کار نیاورده‌ اند. نظر شما چیست؟ آیا به راستی آن‌ها می‌توانند این موضوع را ثابت کنند. این کتاب در واقع دو اثر مجزا – ولی مرتبط – در یک جلد است که به پیچاندن مطلب، استفاده از زبان عمداً مبهم، فکر آشفته و پریشان و سوء استفاده از مفاهیم علمی می‌پردازد. ا. شربیانی

  • Jimmy
    2019-05-01 20:18

    Assessing the usefulness or relevance of philosophy is a seemingly confounding endeavor. It becomes even trickier when approaching a specifically nuanced trend or style of philosophy. Since endless question-begging thought cycles are the genesis of any given philosophy, there is understandable difficulty in posing additional ones that might trump the foundation of that given philosopher's logic or reasoning. To add to that, there is the incessant theoretical backpedaling and earnest apologetics that are such a characteristic reaction to a critique of a particular philosopher's thought. The reason this is complicated is because said apologetics typically entail claims that the philosopher in question was being misread, misunderstood, or read or understood in the incorrect context. They might also claim that the translation of the work in question was a poor one, or that their critics have a very particular axe to grind against them, whether it be political, racial, or class-based. Of course, people usually question philosophers with good reason. These are, after all, academics that make a living out of composing texts full of "deep questions", ones that typically aren't steeped in methodologies that tend to provide reliable evidence or proof. So it's usually the soundness, logic, style, and originality of the philosopher's body of work and thought that tends to be revered or questioned in the end. The point here is that the importance or relevance of philosophy tends to be found in the act of posing big questions in unique ways, all the while offering something new to the theoretical ground that has been covered since the time of Thales and the pre-Socratics. In this sense, science, philosophy's clichéd adversary, often remains silent. What would be the point in questioning anyone’s philosophical system when it's more or less common knowledge that philosophy tends to be a contrived, and narrowly subjective purview of the basic questions of our purpose on this earth, how knowledge works, how perception works, and what way of life is the most morally sound? Well, probably when philosophers purport to understand actual science and implement it as a tool for understanding less scientifically observable phenomena such as the aforementioned types which are so inimical to the concerns of philosophy.At least this was the problem that Alan Sokal, professor of physics at New York University, seemed to have with an intrinsically French brand of thought which came to popularity in the early 1970’s that usually went by the name postmodernism. Well, it actually went by and/or came out of quite a few different names; structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, etc. It also came to the attention of Western academics around the same time as the academic “discipline” of cultural studies did. Since the late sixties, postmodernity was (and continues to be) a vague moniker under which a variety of culture (in general) defined and questioned itself. Sokal was really just interested in what could roughly be considered postmodern philosophy; specifically the philosophies of Jacques Lacan, Julie Kristeva, Jean Baudrillard, Luce Irigaray, Bruno Latour, Gille Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Paul Virilio. As an intellectual, Sokal probably found the writings of these particular philosophers to be nothing more than a lot of shallow, erudite poetics that, when analyzed on a grammatical and syntactical level, meant relatively little. Yet as a physicist, he struggled with the fact that the level of understanding displayed in the math and physics that these thinkers were employing in their respective philosophies was flat-out incorrect, when it wasn't simply banal. So in 1996, Sokal devised a devilishly clever intellectual prank: he contrived his own parody of a standard sort of postmodern essay, using the names of the aforementioned French (and Belgian) thinkers as references and source material; it was aptly entitled Transgressing the Boundaries; Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity. Sokal submitted this essay to a prestigious American cultural studies journal by the name of Social Text. His fake essay was immediately lauded with praise from some of the intellectuals mentioned in it, as well as a number of American academics and philosophers who were influenced by the prominent postmodern thinkers. Naturally, at the realization that the essay was a parody, intended to reveal the lack of intellectual rigor on the part of the editors of Social Text, as well as that of cultural studies departments all over the world, the editors claimed that Sokal seemed like an earnest scientific academic interested bringing the disciplines of the natural sciences and the social sciences closer together, furthermore that the writing was bad and that, “its status as parody does not alter, substantially, our interest in the piece, itself, as a symptomatic document." What Sokal’s intentions truly were, above all else, was to illustrate the fraudulence of postmodern approaches to critical thinking by submitting a sociological essay on the academic divide between the hard sciences and the social sciences - an essay that did so by flattering its references, using deliberately obscure and meaningless language, and making false scientific claims – he could show how this style of thinking was “fashionable nonsense” that caused more harm than good. In other words, these thinkers were frauds, through purporting an understanding of science that they didn’t possess, and possibly in various other aspects of their respective philosophies.A year later, Sokal collaborated with Jean Bricmont, a Belgian theoretical physicist, on a book covering the research and motivation for the Social Text essay entitled Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. In it, the two run through the list of names, with fully researched analysis of writings illustrative of particular instances in which erroneous claims about science are made. The two also attempt to explain, to a popular audience, some of the theoretical arguments and discussions that have occurred throughout the history of the philosophy or sociology of science; thinkers such as Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, and Paul Feyeraband are taken into account. Sokal also devotes an entire chapter to the so-called “science wars” and offers suggestions, from a scientists point of view, of ways in which the two disciplines would benefit from a sort of academic synthesis. Much like Edward O. Wilson’s best-selling book Consilience, Fashionable Nonsense reveals that in fact there wouldn’t really be much need for philosophers in this hypothetical scenario. Or rather, if social scientists were still needed, their services would be required in a more poetic context, rather than one of research, or merely that of developing theories and methodologies for use in the field. Certain aspects of Fashionable Nonsense offer complications for the general reader uninitiated in technical physics, math, and science. On the one hand, if the technical explanations are over their head, much of the argument probably won’t make a great deal of sense. Or, if one is of an intellect not steeped in technical science, but more than capable of gleaning the thrust of the debate and controversy, then a little blind faith is required in order to trust Sokal’s explanations. Still, any rational person should be able to see that it’s quite unlikely that a professor of physics would utilize erroneous math and physics in order to debunk the fraudulence inherent in other writers who do the same. Not only would this be immediately revealed by even more outraged scientists, but what exactly would be the point?Of course, things continue to seem even more complicated thanks to something called epistemic relativism. This is the school of thought that suggests that any mode of knowing – usually what people refer to as an objective truth – is just as good as the next. In other words, what is commonly implied is that western science is just as solidly objective and reliable as tribal myth. Sokal discusses Feyeraband and his anarchic views on scientific method in discourse on the plausibility of epistemic relativism. Again, to the skeptical lay-reader, the entire argument might sound like two sides vociferously attempting to persuade and convince a neutral party. Such is the essence of discussion and argument really. To further complicate things, the Strong Programme is discussed as well, which makes the claim that “true” and “false” scientific theories should be treated equally, and that social status and culture play a role in influencing different scientific theories. Or to put it rather bluntly, the Strong Programme basically states that there is no such thing as observable rationality or reason. In a sense, epistemic relativism lies at the heart of what Sokal and Bricmont are criticizing. This sort of philosophical vagueness, coupled with an unfulfilled, question-begging prophecy are characteristic of what Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction attempted to do with language and writing. In fact, it’s quite characteristic of the analytical approach that most of the authors who are discussed in Fashionable Nonsense rely on in order to excuse the ostensible lack of meaning in their writings. There are some gargantuan debates and intellectual controversies discussed in Sokal and Bricmont’s incredibly layered book, which is why it should encourage the reader to investigate the verisimilitude of certain philosophies. The two physicists are very much aware of the apologetic arguments that might keep philosophical hucksters theoretically safe, but the basic question of why one would bandy about a very technical and specific scientific language to meet the ends of their philosophical means, remains inadequately answered. It most likely will for some time. The responses to Sokal’s Hoax from the writers in question were predictably incredulous. If it wasn’t the likes of Julie Kristeva accusing them of spreading “disinformation as part of an anti-French, politico-economic campaign”, it was Robert Maggiori in Libération saying that, “Sokal and Bricmont are Humorless scientific pedants who correct grammatical errors in love letters”. Along with this, accusations of right-wing politics and conservatism were made. In the face of such abysmal intellectual denial, scientific reason can only repeatedly make the claim that there are such things as facts, and that they are observable. This has much to do with why scientists aren’t attached to specific theories for terribly long; these theories are created with the intention of being exploded or discarded if they turn out to serve as unstable groundwork for method. Fashionable Nonsense is polemical, but only in the sense that Sokal feels an obligation to his notions of truth and fact as a scientist. He repeatedly mentions the point that these writers willfully chose to include specifically scientific terminology in their writings. As he mentions in the book, science doesn’t exactly have a monopoly on words such as chaos, velocity, or speed, but when used along with other well recognized terms clearly alluding to specific scientific facts, they cannot be construed as metaphors. Sokal set out to reveal how one aspect of postmodernism was fraudulent, and in doing so seemed to invariably reduce that particular style of thinking and writing to what it truly is: superficial erudition garnished with a lot of fancy-sounding technical language. He wasn't arguing against the usefulness or relevance of the social sciences, rather, he was arguing against pretentious nonsense promulgated as fact under the guise of science.

  • J.G. Keely
    2019-05-11 16:18

    Why is it that whenever a theory of social science is found to be flawed, and loses the respect of the scientific community, it manages to find new success as a branch of literary criticism? Freud's theories are by this point laughable, and yet they persist as viable modes of literary analysis. Marx's tautological economic theories have gone the same way. If I had to predict, I'd say Chomsky is up next.There is a point at which ahistoricism and structuralism are willing to accept any method, any idea, any theory, and clasp it close, independent of whether it has any worth. Many literary critics seem to judge an idea good not due to its merit, but its novelty and outrageousness.Alan Sokal would go further and say that the upper echelon of Literary criticism, the tenured professors, the peer-reviewed journals, and the most successful critics are more interested in vague, garbled nonsense than in really sound or revolutionary ideas. Which is why he famously submitted an essay filled with jargon terms, popular ideas, and quotes from the right people, but comically nonsensical and scientifically childish, and of course it was accepted, printed and lauded.This book, like much of Sokal's work, is aimed at debunking the modern powerhouses of literary criticism, by the simple act of pointing out that their rhetoric, definitions, and understanding of the scientific principles they invoke are entirely flawed and amount to nonsense.Even to those of us without Sokal's scientific background, it quickly becomes clear that Lacan and Derrida (and to a lesser extent, Foucault and Barthes) are just sensationalist, erudite nonsense, and that they are only quoted so often because little they say has any foundation in reality, and hence, they can be used to support or refute anything.Hopefully the bloated, meandering heads of academia will soon be shamed into doing real work by the efforts of men like Sokal. It would be nice to return to some semblance of reason and rhetoric in the Lit Crit field.Hopefully I'll find a copy of this book to go through, myself. Though Dawkins isn't my favorite, I have to thank him for cluing me into Sokal, and to the Postmodernism Generator, which creates random postmodernist papers whenever you hit refresh, and which are surprisingly difficult to tell from the work of real postmodernists.

  • Eric_W
    2019-04-26 23:20

    In 1996, Alan Sokal submitted an article to Social Text entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity." If that title means little to you, that's OK because the article was, in fact, nonsense. It was part of an elaborate hoax and parody that Sokal was perpetrating on those who subscribe to "epistemic relativism," i.e., the belief that modern science is nothing more than myth, a "social construction." This philosophy is particularly endemic to modern French philosophers who have attempted to appropriate the language of science in order to validate some of their thinking without understanding the science itself. 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.") had his article gleefully accepted, revealing the ignorance and vacuity of the pseudo-thinkers. 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."A follow-up article, published as an appendix to the book, was submitted to Social Text but was rejected as not meeting their intellectual standards! 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." This book is a delightful attack on intellectual confusion and a ringing call to obfuscate obfuscation.reposted with minor editing 1/15/10

  • Hadrian
    2019-05-15 19:01

    As I've only taken a few semesters of the 'hard sciences' at the university level, I have very little to add to this discussion on the use of science in philosophy. Although I enjoyed the ribbing of academic obscurantism, my impression of the original 'Sokal Affair', where he submitted a gibberish article to an academic journal, seems to be based on a case of sloppy peer-review, which is an ongoing issue.

  • nostalgebraist
    2019-05-25 20:02

    This is a book that serves its modest purpose reasonably well, but after finishing it, I was left mostly wondering whether it was a purpose that needed to be served.First, a note on context -- this book was co-authored by Alan Sokal, the perpetrator of the (in)famous Sokal Hoax. I won't describe or weigh in on the hoax here, since there has been a lot said about it elsewhere (this article by Michael Bérubé is a good even-handed retrospective), and also because this book is a much less inherently contentious entity than the Hoax. In some ways, it's a shame that Sokal became famous for the Hoax first, because this book would probably have made a bigger impact if it weren't associated with an author already famous for contentious, partisan views.With that said, on to the book itself. Its purpose is to show that a number of well-regarded continental (mostly French) philosophers, as well as certain sociologists, have made invalid usage of mathematics and physics in their writing. "Invalid" here is meant in a strong sense -- this isn't mere pedantic nitpicking, like correcting someone's grammar. The errors are substantial ones, to the point of being fatal: Sokal and Bricmont claim that the errors made by these authors render their math-based arguments and judgments either wrong or meaningless.The book has a peculiar format: aside from a few interspersed philosophical essays (labelled "Intermezzos"), it is essentially a very long list of quotations from the authors' targets, followed by brief explanations of how the targets have erred. The quotations are often very long, and are typically longer than the commentary; this may have the highest quotation-to-main-text ratio of any book I've ever read.I found myself agreeing with Sokal and Bricmont in almost every case. The quotations they choose are, to someone with a mathematical background, self-undermining: they clearly demonstrate a lack of facility with the concepts they invoke. I have to wonder how effective the book would be for someone without a math background -- often Sokal and Bricmont's commentary boils down things like to "the author doesn't appear to understand relativity theory" or "the author states this theorem incorrectly," and while that's clear to me (because I'm familiar with the topics in question), I'm not sure S&B do a good enough job of explaining it. None of their criticisms are mere nitpicks, but many of them might sound like mere nitpicks to the uninitiated.There is also another, much more significant way in which this book feels like it's preaching to the choir. To describe it, let me first say that the mistakes catalogued here divide into two types. One type is misunderstanding of math or theoretical physics in itself -- say, when an author misquotes a mathematical definition. These errors are relatively clean-cut -- it is easy to say, definitively, that the targets really have erred -- although, again, those who don't know the math will just have to take this on faith from S&B.But there is another, second kind of error: erroneous use of math and physics concepts as parts of arguments or as metaphors. And it is in this case that the quoted authors really fall on their faces. It would be one thing to simply get a definition wrong (such errors can be produced by misprints, after all), but the way in which mathematical concepts are linked to topics like psychoanalysis or sociology by these authors is a very different and more bizarre sort of error. Often it feels, to someone who knows the math, like an absurd category mistake, roughly analogous to asserting (without explanation or justification) that "modern telephones communicate by sending Leibnizian monads" or "political solidarity is properly categorized as a particular flavor of ice cream."And this is where I worry that this book's very existence is kind of superfluous. It's not just that these sorts of bizarre claims -- say, that Cantor's infinities have something to do with psychoanalysis, or that the notion of "lightlike intervals" in special relativity theory can somehow explain modern society -- it's not just that these claims happen to be wrong. It's that I have a hard time imagining how anyone could think they weren't wrong. Even if I didn't happen to know anything about the mathematics of infinity, I imagine I would be confused if someone started telling me that it can help us understand the human subconscious; at the very least I would want an acknowledgement that this is an outlandish claim, and that it requires some legwork to get the reader "on board." Instead, these authors just barrel ahead.So the reason people don't object to these kinds of errors can't (just) be a lack of math and physics education. It must be something deeper: a greater tolerance for outlandish conceptual leaps, or a greater willingness to put one's faith in an author, to assume that if they make outlandish claims they must have good justifications for them hidden somewhere, although not explicitly stated in the text itself. (Why some authors get this lenient treatment and others don't is an interesting sociological question in itself.)This connects back to the fact that this book is composed largely of quotations: to someone like me or S&B, the fact that these people are making absurd category mistakes is evident from their writing itself, so that the commentary is almost superfluous. (Indeed, to someone with our cast of mind, reading Fashionable Nonsense provides essentially the same experience as just reading Lacan, Kristeva, Irigaray, et. al. directly; S&B's commentary simply echoes what I was already thinking when reading their quotations.)But of course if everyone had this cast of mind, then these authors would not have the renown they do. (S&B usefully quote a number of reviews that laud their targets' "precision," etc., to make the point that people really do treat these authors as serious intellectuals, and not just as writers of an odd and awkward sort of academic poetry.) So what I'm left with is a sense of a huge and unbridgeable gulf. If you're like Sokal and Bricmont and me, you'll agree with Fashionable Nonsense, but you probably don't have to read it in the first place; if you're not like us, it probably won't convince you of anything, because it mainly argues by exhibiting its targets as though their flaws were self-evident. I do wonder what it's like on the other side of the bridge; this book gives little insight into that question.

  • Lane Wilkinson
    2019-05-15 23:22

    "We can clearly see that there is no bi-univocal correspondence between linear signifying links or archi-writing, depending on the author, and this multireferential, multi-dimensional machinic catalysis. The symmetry of scale, the transversality, the pathic non-discursive character of their expansion: all these dimensions remove us from the logic of the excluded middle and reinforce us in our dismissal of the ontological binarism we criticised previously"This quote, from psychoanalyst Félix Guattari, is typical of the obfuscation that runs amok in contemporary humanities; an obfuscation called into question some years ago by the famous Sokal Affair and re-invigorated by Sokal and Bricmont'sFashionable Nonsense. There is a reason that science and the humanities are administered by different departments in (almost) every university. Common-sense would dictate that physicists are not in the habit of teaching courses on Shakespeare, and English professors are not in the habit of teaching quantum mechanics. However, as Sokal shows us, the latter is no longer true in all cases. As a scientist, Sokal does not overstep his own areas of expertise, while showing that po-mo academics routinely overstep theirs. Keeping strictly to the scientific claims (and subsequent abuses) of several famous po-mo academics, Sokal shows both that post-modernism has created a parody of intellectual rigor, and that the post-modern methodology is in danger of undermining the once proud study of arts and letters.The results of Sokal's critique are often hilarious. That the theories of Irigiray, Guattari, Deleuze, et. al. are supposedly malleable enough to be applied to any topic whatsoever is almost a running gag. To wit, Sokal's discussion of Irigiray's bizarre combination of gender studies, feminist ethics, and special relativity is a comedic highpoint (E=mc^2 is a sexist equation?!). The underlying message is, of course, that po-mo theorists are intellectually dishonest insofar as they purport that a scientific theory is just another 'text' to be deconstructed. That 'special relativity' and 'cultural relativism' share the same etymological root does not mean they share the same epistemological foundation. The equivocation is blatant enough to be funny; though Sokal shows that we should temper our laughter.If Sokal is correct, the shibboleths 'hermeneutics', 'Lacanian' and 'desituationism' are sufficient for advanced degrees from premier universities, and this has lead to a crisis. This crisis is not so much a 'dumbing-down' of the humanities, but, rather, that the humanities are in danger of losing credibility. By making scientific claims from outside of the scientific method, post-modernists are coming across as the ivory-tower equivalents of Ann Coulter: incredibly bright but misguided to the point of parody. The credibility gap is perpetuated when po-mo academics couch their usually non-existent 'theories' in language so dense and difficult to read that those who cannot understand are looked down upon as intellectual inferiors and those who do understand are lying. In sum, post-modern theories are the epitome of the academic foolishness described by Pope: "Such laboured nothings in so strange a style, / Amaze th' unlearn'd, and make the learned smile." Unfortunately, if Sokal is correct about the humanities, a majority of English majors may not even know who Pope is.

  • Dave Brick
    2019-05-19 17:07

    If you've ever had to read the postmodernist writings of Focault, Derrida, Lacan, or any of their innumerable disciples and come away with only the vaguest idea as to their meaning, you might want to read this book. But if like me, you regularly have to encounter postmodernism in the flesh and just don't get it, this is a must-read. It will reassure you that incoherent sentences mixed shameless displays of (false) erudition--although extremely humorous--cannot change the fact that reason, evidence, and the truth do matter (even if rich, white men believe in them too).

  • Mark
    2019-05-08 21:15

    I think it's crucial that respectable academics stop purveying semantically vacuous nonsense that egregiously expropriates terms that have precise scientific meanings, with demonstrably no understanding whatever of those meanings, for the purpose of furthering an atmosphere of moral equivalency for sense and nonsense. (I use the word "respectable" contextually: the perpetrators of this furtherance of discursive entropy are respected by many of the academics within their own fields.)

  • Jafar
    2019-04-28 00:20

    This book started off as a prank when Sokal sent an article to Social Text which was full of nonsense, but used pomo's vague and pompous style and confirmed some of their social/political beliefs. The editors, excited that a physicist has converted to their side, promptly published the article. Once caught, they refused to publish the subsequent paper in which Sokal explained the reason for his prank and how absurd the first article had been. Richard Dawkins said it best in one of his essays in A Devil's Chaplin. These postmodern/poststructuralist/deconstructionist/whatever writers have "physics complex". Physics is a subject that is genuinely very difficult. Most of the things that the pomo camp is trying to say, if you have the patience to go through their pretentious and convoluted writing, are quite ordinary and can be said much more simply. (I've certainly had this impression from the few pomo books and articles that I had the patience to go through.) To give their ideas the impression of being involved and complicated, and impress their peers and readers and satisfy their vanity, they resort to mixing pomposity with nonsense. It used to be quite fashionable, and fortunately it's going out of fashion. One particular form of their pretentiousness is their (ab)use of scientific concepts and jargon in their writing. They not only don't understand the subject, a lot of them are against science and rationality and deny the very existence of any objective truth - which makes you wonder why they want to employ (pseudo)science in their arguments. The book has a lot of such examples from various prominent pomo thinkers. My favorite ones are Luce Irigaray's analysis of why Einstein's famous equation E=mc2 is a sexist equation; and Jaques Lacan's assertion that penis represents square root of minus one (only a deconstructionist psychoanalyst can come up with such a genius idea). As for the prank itself - vanity is something that afflicts all of us, including scientists. The prominent neuroscientist Ramachandran (Phantoms of the Brain) sent an article to a magazine specializing in evolutionary biology. He compiled a bunch of scientific-sounding arguments to prove why it make evolutionary sense for men to prefer blond women over brunettes. (Has such preference among men been statistically proven? I personally cast my vote for brunettes.) The editors got too excited that such a famous neuroscientist has discovered yet another minor detail about our nature to be the result of evolution and natural selection. They gladly published the article, and then Ramachandran told them, Hahaha, that was just a joke!

  • Janet
    2019-05-23 21:57

    I wanted to like this, I really did. It was completely relevant to my interests. I'm sick of the contempt for the sciences communicated by the humanities even after their post-60s dialogue with scientific language. I think that actually understanding the concepts one uses to break down the convention of analogy is interesting. I don't think that the doubts and complexities of actual science are fundamentally responsible for political and social damage. Sokal could have been moderate, understanding, and just as open to understanding the doubts and complexities of pomo gibberish. Instead, here are these assholes, and here's the joke, flying over them beyond the orbit of the moon. See, the whole point of cultural theorists "abusing" (that sure is some strong language, sure glad it's sworn to protect and serve) math and science is not to actually draw analogies, but to manifest the underlying absurdity of analogies, to create greater confusion and that unique feel of incomprehensibility. They write ABOUT the sensation of encountering the arcane, the gaps between realms of knowledge, the incommensurability of intellectual (and otherwise) cultures. When Sokal laments that they seem to at least know the sciences they "abuse" but are deliberately obfuscating to "impress their readers", he could use that same recognition of their trans-disciplinary research to guide him into fucking Getting It.I admit, I stopped reading when he started digging into Latour, a philosopher who has himself bridged the same gap, and sought to understand science in post-modern, intersubjective way, by moving from sociology of science through posthuman politics. Admittedly, he can be dry and Gallically smug, but Latour understands how science does and does not work, and how applying it to itself engages a worlds-enclosing-worlds-that-enclose-them dynamic that non-Euclidean mathematics has probably also gotten around to, no conceptual misuse accusations necessary. Claiming it to be outside of Latour's dissection and inversion of it indicates an enclosed dogmatism as thorough of that he thinks he sees in postmodern theory.When Sokal holes the literarizing of meta-literature up to the standards of scientific analysis, it's worse than the structuralism shown earlier by some of his targets. Postmodern theory aimed to establish a place in an academy based on Enlightenment (and prior) rationalism for irrationality. The potentialities of nonsense are a larger infinity than those of rationality, itself, as Sokal univentively connected, undermined within mathematics. The concept of an intellectual institution without a place for and vigorous exploration of nonsense horrifies me, as does Sokal's highly unscientific failure to self-examine. I speak as someone who understands and appreciates science, here, dammit, and I don't like the reputation he's giving it.When Sokal published his famous joke paper, the joke was really that he didn't realize it was all a joke already.

  • Steven Williams
    2019-05-16 18:06

    This book shows up some of the postmodernists and poststructuralists misuse and abuse of mathematics and science (especially physics). One of the authors, Alan Sokal, wrote a paper that mimics these types of scholars as a hoax, published in the postmodernist journal Social Text, which is included as appendix A, followed by some further comments in appendix B. The scholars, all I believe are tenured professors, hence why I am calling them scholars, are Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Bruno Latour, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Paul Virilio. Intertwined are chapters on these scholars views on philosophy of science, chaos theory, Godel’s Incompleteness theorem and set theory, and how they are wrong in their interpretations. There is an afterword as appendix C. The following comments are based on notes I took while reading the book. Kindle locations are given in brackets [].[905] I have an objection to this line of thought - “We never have direct access to the world; we have direct access only to sensations.” This is accepted in the authors answer to “solipsism and radical skepticism.” I do not concede this to those that hold this position. We do have direct contact with the world. We see things because of light (made of photons) impinging on our nervous system; we touch many things directly; we smell because of contact with chemical molecules; we taste because of touch and chemical reactions, and we hear because of sound waves that enter our ears.[1003] “In a sense, we always return to Hume’s problem: No statement about the real world can ever literally be proven; but to use the eminently appropriate expression from Anglo-Saxon law, it can sometimes be proven beyond any reasonable doubt. The unreasonable doubt subsists.” (authors italics). I have been saying this for some years. If I hold a belief that is beyond a reasonable doubt, I should be willing to act on it, and for me a belief is not a belief until it is beyond a reasonable doubt. Otherwise, for me it is just a thought or feeling, something I think or feel about, but that I am not completely sure of, and when I write I say “I think or I feel.”*[1644] Within in a quote by Irigaray is “Neitzsche also perceived his ego as an atomic nucleus threatened with explosion,” trying to argue some fantastic idea. Neitzsche also was mentally ill, and finally cracked (or went insane) at the end of his life. Maybe that atom nucleus did explode.[1785] “Finally, it is hard to see what relation, besides a purely metaphorical one, fluid mechanics could have with psychoanalysis. Suppose tomorrow someone were to come up with a satisfactory theory of turbulence. In what way would (or should) that affect our theories of human psychology.” Brain fluid turbulence, maybe :-)[2307] Within a long quote by Baudrillard it says: “It combines in effect an inflation, a galloping acceleration, a dizzying whirl of mobility, an eccentricity of events and an excess of meaning and information with an exponential tendency towards total entropy.” (my italics) Besides the authors critique, I would add that besides its meaninglessness, if total entropy were reach there would be no reason to continue chuntering on. And, then: “It would seem that there will be no end . . .” Total entropy would be the end. Further on [2316] in the same quotation, there is this “. . . the potential hurricanes which end in the beating of a butterfly’s wings?” Should not this be the beginning if he is trying to use the popular analogy?[2388] From a quote by Deleuze and Guattari: “. . . they [endoreferences] are not relations but numbers, and the entire theory of functions depends on numbers.” First, I have no idea what “endoreferences” in brackets are. Second, functions depend not just on numbers; they are really relations of variables with the numbers occurring in them as constants that do not vary. It is okay if a functions have no constants at all, like: f(x) = y + y.[3494] Here is a sentence in a quote by Aronowitz: “Surely, the earth [sic] evolved long before life on earth.” First, the Earth does not evolve itself (at least not in the Darwinian sense as life does). Second if as stated previously in the quote: “natural objects are also socially constructed,” how can the earth (evolving or not) be anything other than a social construct, which as such could equally be socially constructed to not exist to be consistent?[4475] Note 52 states: “Bertrand Russell . . . tells the following amusing story. ‘I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were not others.” This is somewhat a surprising thing to say if you are a solipsist because if you hold to such a belief there are no others to be solipsists, since as a solipsist you must hold that only you exist.[4507] Note 62 partially says: “Our [the authors] analysis in this section [‘Epistemology in Crisis’ in chapter four.] is inspired in part by Putnam (1974), Stove (1982), and Laudan (1990b). . . . Tim Burdon drew our attention to Newton-Smith (1981), where a similar critique of Popper’s epistemology can be found.” I am not sure how similar Susan Haack’s opposition to Popper in her Putting Philosophy to Work is with these others, but it could very well go on the list as well.The book was okay, but repetitive and way to many lengthy quotes. I tended to enjoy the authors “Intermezzos” on different common problems with postmodernist writers, but how much gobbledygook can one take. I mean it felt like I was drowning in it—give me some air please. As you can see from my comments I found other qualms other than what the authors provided, so in this case it was a little fun. Remember, it seems like I get my jollies (though not in a mean way, at least not ordinarily) figuring out critiques with what others’ think.If you are interested in critiques of postmodernist thought in the academy, you should enjoy the book, given my caveat above, but if you enjoy a dizzy head you may not have any issues with it. I think it would help if you are already familiar with some of the postmodernists’ positions to understand the book better.* See my blog post “Can You Believe That?” which discusses my scale of belief I tend to use when I write. Click here for the link - https://aquestionersjourney.wordpress...

  • Yves
    2019-05-14 18:54

    Thanks to this book I came to realize why I didn't understand so many things of the continental philosophy classes at the university: we were simply taught either bullshit or deepities. It's a shame our money is spent so foolishly to support the production of postmodern and obscurantist crap.

  • Aurélien Thomas
    2019-05-03 23:06

    One will never be grateful enough to Sokal and Bricmont for pointing fingers towards a naked emperor. Being French, I know far too well how postmodernism/poststructuralism/social constructivism (or whatever other stupid name a certain intelligentsia wants to call itself) damaged a whole field of academics and, as such, modern intellectual life and debate. Stemming from the like of Lacan, Deleuze, Kristeva, Baudrillard, Irigaray, Latour, Virilio and co (to name just the ones targeted here) there is indeed a vague intellectual Zeitgeist corrupting a whole part of modern societies, one based on subjectivism, relativism and, all in all, a reject of the rationalism of the Enlightenment that needed to be addressed. If the impact of these intellectuals upon political issues, especially via their influence on part of the Left, is well known (cultural relativism, multiculturalism, political correctness etc.) politics however is not what Sokal and Bricmont are here interested in. Both scientists by trade, specialists in mathematics and physics, they are in fact coming back on their now famous hoax (the so-called 'Sokal Affair') to better expose how fallacious such philosophies are. Analysing the texts of some of these 'thinkers' that they quote at large (and gosh! what an heavy and pompous nausea their prose is!) they show that, their extensive use of scientific terminology (drawn from topology, chaos theory, quantum mechanics, relativity etc.) applied to fields of social sciences (psychoanalysis, linguistics, political philosophy etc.) is not only irrelevant but, more often than not based on a complete ignorance and/or misunderstanding of the hard sciences involved! Hence nonsensical verbiage, demonstrating that such philosophies are nothing more than 'mystification, deliberately obscure language, confused thinking, and the misuse of scientific concepts', the authors dismiss them for what they are: intellectual imposture and frauds. Of course, this is not an attack on Humanities as a whole, French academias, nor against the political Left (Sokal, deliciously, even actually define himself as 'an old Leftist who never quite understood how deconstruction was supposed to help the working class')! Such reading, beyond its denunciation of ignorant and incompetent nonsense, serves on the contrary as a warning against that so called 'postmodern Zeitgeist', a dangerous and irresponsible way of thinking in a world prey to obscurantism, fanaticism and superstition. In fact, even the causes these philosophical stances are supposed to help (feminism, gay rights, anti racism) would be far better off without such imbecilities! This book is thus a pure delight for anyone fed up and annoyed by pompous and farcical 'philosophers' being, dangerously enough, taken seriously among some pedantic leftist circles. Point fingers and laugh: the emperor at long last has been revealed naked.

  • Harry Doble
    2019-05-25 19:05

    I give Fashionable Nonsense five stars because for all its shortcomings, it achieves exactly what Alan Sokal & Jean Bricmont set out to do. This book is a few things: a love letter to science, a critique of bad academic writing, a plea for clarity and reason in the political left. But to understand what this book is, you also have to understand what it is not. Contrary to popular belief, this is not an attack on postmodernism and the humanities at large by arrogant scientists who simply don't get it. The preface and introduction to my edition make this clear, and the care Sokal and Bricmont employ in defining terms and not overstepping their boundaries of expertise is commendable. This book is extremely charitible to the subject of its critique, in fact, but charity can only be taken so far. What we have here is a catalogue of some of the most blatantly stupid and lazy things ever written by an academic of some prestige, all of which have in common the tendency to invoke scientific and mathematic concepts the author does not understand. This is where Sokal and Bricmont step in, to offer commentary on misuses and explain the underlying concepts in layman's terms the best they can where they see them. There are chapters on Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Bruno Latour, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, and Paul Virilio. I have read some criticism that Sokal and Bricmont's approach is little more than quoting a block of text from these writers and offering a short remark with some footnotes, but for their purposes, this is fine. It is the chapter on Epistemic Relativism in the Philosophy of Science that is the true highlight for me. Sokal and Bricmont help the reader contextualise several relativist threads within the philosophy of science that are frequently used to undermine its authority, namely underdetermination, the work of Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend, and the strong programme of sociology. I found their argument in this chapter an exhilarating defense of science as practice. There are also chapters on chaos theory and Gödel's incompleteness theorems, which are similarly terrific. Sokal's original essay on how gravity is a social construct is also included here with notes, and if you are anything like me, there is delight to be had in combing over it to see how he exploited common tropes of postmodernist writing for his prank. Fashionable Nonsense is a timely and necessary book, one I would recommend to both students of the sciences and humanities alike.

  • Worthless Bum
    2019-05-23 20:21

    Alan Sokal is known for having written a splendid parody known as the "Sokal Hoax", a paper submitted and published in the journal "Social Text" which criticizes certain academic trends in literary criticism, philosophy, and sociology, such trends being largely influenced by certain French philosophers. Categorizing these trends and philosophies under the regrettably vague moniker "postmodernism" (a term whose vagueness owes itself in no small part to the tendency for obscurity, inconsistency, and incoherence of philosophies so called), Sokal and co-author Jean Bricmont take to task some of the most famous and influential of these so called postmodernist (PoMo) thinkers. Just about every chapter in the book is devoted to a particular PoMo thinker, the exceptions being a couple of fascinating "intermezzo" chapters dealing with epistemic relativism and chaos theory respectively. The criticisms of the PoMos was confined to abuses of concepts in math and science. The chapters dealing with the PoMo thinkers consist of textual excerpts analyzed by Sokal and Bricmont. These excerpts are painful to read. They exhibit what the authors call "superficial erudition", an obscure and technical verbiage laden form of writing that turns out to be either incoherent or trivial when unpacked. A person reading such passages who doesn't understand the technical math and science concepts invoked may well think "wow, this is so profound that it goes over my head", and that seems to be one of the motivations behind this kind of writing, to wow laypeople with superficial, pedantic intellectuality. In other words it is intellectual masturbation. In the quoted excerpts from the PoMos, it always turns out that they don't understand the technical concepts that are using, or that the use of them is gratuitous, that the comparisons and analogies made between a math or science concept and something in literature or sociology is not adequately justified.I found the first intermezzo chapter dealing with epistemic relativism to be the most interesting chapter in the book. Feyerabend's "epistemic anarchy" as put forward in his putative "Against Method" is analyzed, as is a radical interpretation of Quinean underdetermination and incomensurability, and Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions".

  • Brett Williams
    2019-05-23 17:18

    Postmodern medicine that tastes good!This book will keep you laughing for hours. It’s about The Sokal Hoax, a phony article made up of esoteric scientific jargon applied to social issues through convolutions of logic and obfuscated language. Sokal then infiltrated postmodernist turf when he got his paper published in one of their premier journals, “Social Text: A daring and controversial leader in the field of cultural studies.” The paper was an instant smash throughout postmodern circles, later to win the 1996 Ig Noble Award – more than Sokal could hope for.Sokal, a professor of physics, canvassed what looks like hundreds of postmodern papers flushed in untreated torrents from academia. By pulling together this nasty set of aromas he creates a bouquet for those he drenches with praise throughout the hoax by applying Lodge’s maxim, “It is impossible to be excessive in flattery of one’s peers.” Like any good snake oil salesman, Sokal simply kludged the language into what postmoderns want to hear most, “that physical reality is at bottom a social and linguistic construct,” he writes. Thus science is mere politics, another Western bias, nothing whatsoever to do with the realities of nature. (Ignoring the curing of small pox, man on the moon, Voyager to Saturn, computers, TVs, cell phones, planes, trains and automobiles.) There is thus no objective truth, allowing postmoderns to tell us what it really is. At some point Sokal could bare no more praise heaped high, nor references to his “ground-breaking work” among postmodern publications, so he revealed the article for what it was. Not only did the kings and queens have no clothes, but their bodies looked so funny under the optic of Sokal’s glare. They’d been duped and they knew it. Wheels of postmodern correctness squealed into reverse to say they’d always known Sokal was a fake. Sokal makes postmodernism fun, and shows us there’s a good chance we’ve been misunderstanding these people for these last fifty years – they’re really comedians. And to think we took them seriously. If the public only knew what academic freedom protected at the university at their tax dollar’s expense, they might not be laughing.

  • Luke
    2019-05-20 20:01

    I would have given it five-stars if not for all the semantically incoherent non-sequiturs quoted ad nauseum. But that's just me being post-postmodernism in seminal abrasiveness of the complacence of fashionable academia and all its derivatives (e.g. math, physics, chemistry; i.e. anything non contained within the set of non-humanities or social sciences {i.e. set of non-humanities conjoined with the set of non-social-sciences}). Neither complete or consistent due to the implications of Godel's theorem. Or, more aptly, Derrida with it!

  • Benedict Reid
    2019-05-11 20:07

    If you ever find yourself thinking the postmodern French philosophers actually have a point. This is the book you need to read. It is simply undeniable proof that postmodern thinking is word-games, not actual theories. More sense is in these pages than most undergraduate arts degrees.

  • Vikas Lather
    2019-05-06 18:57

    A must read for all who are interested in social science

  • Maziar Attarieh
    2019-05-14 22:11

    خواندنش را برای تمام متفکران و متفکرنمایان به ویژه در وادی ادبیات چپ واجب اعلام می‌کنم.

  • Naghmeh Taba
    2019-05-05 20:16

    «چرندیاتِ پست‌مدرن»؛ یک سرکاریِ درست و حسابی.داستانِ این کتاب با یک حقه آغاز شد. حقه‌ای که جامعه‌یِ هدفِ آن بخش‌هایِ وسیعی از علومِ اجتماعی و علومِ انسانی بود که فلسفه‌یِ «پست‌مدرنیسم» را دنبال می‌کردند. جریانِ فکری که مشخصه‌یِ آن طرد کمابیش صریحِ عقلانیتِ عصرِ روشنگری، جداییِ گفتمان‌هایِ نظری از هر گونه آزمونِ تجربی، و نوعی نسبیت‌گراییِ شناختاری است که نهایتاً علم را چیزی جز نوعی «روایت»، نوعی «اسطوره» یا نوعی برساخته‌یِ اجتماعی نمی‌داند.حالا فرض کنید که شما روشنفکرِ دغل‌بازی هستید که حرفِ خاصی برای گفتن ندارید ولی تمایلِ زیادی به موفقیت در زندگیِ آکادمیک دارید و دوست دارید سطورِ کتاب‌هایِ‌تان هایلایت شود و نوچه‌ها دنبال‌تان بیفتند و مریدانی، که به شما ایمان داشته باشند مانندِ مؤمنانی که به متونِ مقدس ایمان می‌ورزند. شما که محتوایی برای عرضه ندارید به ناچار فرمی را به‌کار می‌گیرید که یاوه بودن آثارتان به این راحتی‌ها فاش نشود، ناگفته پیداست که زبانِ روشن و شفاف، زود مشت‌تان را باز می‌کند. آلن سوکال و همکارش ژان بریکمون، طیِ تحقیقی چند ساله به فکرِ افشایِ این دغل‌کاریِ گسترده افتادند، به این شکل که سال ۱۹۹۶ سوکال به مجله‌ی Social Text مقاله‌ای تحویل می‌دهد از نوع همین کارهایی که در سال‌هایِ اخیر رواج داشته‌اند، مقاله‌ای سرشار از حرف‌هایِ بی‌ربط و مغالطه‌هایِ آشکار. عنوانِ مقاله «تجاوز از حدود: به سویِ تأویلی متحول‌کننده از گرانشِ کوانتومی» است. طیِ این مقاله صریحاً اعلام می‌شود که «واقعیتِ فیزیکی، درست به اندازه‌یِ واقعیتِ اجتماعی، در اصل نوعی برساخته‌یِ اجتماعی و زبانی است» و در ادامه به طرز شگفت‌آوری به این نتیجه می‌رسد که «اعدادِ پی و جی -ثابتِ جهانیِ گرانش- که پیش از این ثابت و جهانشمول به‌شمار می‌رفتند، اکنون به طورِ قطعی تاریخمند به‌شمار می‌روند و ناظرِ قانونی به طرز مهلکی هرگونه مرکزی را از دست می‌دهد و از هر نوع پیوندِ معرفت‌شناختی با یک نقطه‌ی زمان-مکان می‌گسلد، نقطه‌ای که دیگر نمی‌توان آن را فقط به کمکِ هندسه تعیین کرد.» و مابقیِ مقاله نیز به همین ترتیب پیش می‌رود. در عین ناباوریِ اولیه، نقیضه‌یِ سوکال در ژورنال چاپ می‌شود، آن هم در شماره‌یِ ویژه‌، که قرار بود به اثباتِ نادرستیِ انتقاداتِ دانشمندان از پست‌مدرنیسم بپردازد. بهتر از این ممکن نمی‌شد. وی بلافاصله حقه‌اش را برملا کرد و دیگران را از نیت‌اش مطلع ساخت. سیلی از واکنش‌هایِ مختلف به این اقدامِ هجوآمیز راه افتاد. چند روزنامه‌یِ مهم این اتفاق را رصد کردند و هجمهای از انتقادات به سراغ‌اش آمد، اما سوکال چه کرد؟ و آیا اساساً آیا این هیاهو قرار بود چیزی را نفی یا اثبات کند؟ سوکال بر این بود که: این، نویسندگانِ هدفِ فریب هستند که در آثارِ پرطمطراقِ خود، در انتهایِ هر جمله و یا حتی هر کلمه، انتظارِ تشویق را می‌کشند، و اگر او به آثار و روشِ آن‌ها چنین عریان تاخته، نباید شیوه‌یِ ناستوده‌ی همان‌ها را در پی گیرد. پس این‌بار مصمم‌تر از قبل و به همکاریِ ژان بریکمون مجموعه‌یِ بیشتری از برخوردهایِ این نویسندگان با علوم طبیعی را گردآوری کرد و در محافلِ تخصصی منتشر کرد، بسیاری از دانشمندان از این حجمِ مغالطه به واکنشی ترکیبی از خنده-هراس رسیدند. این دو اما لازم دیدند که باید در کتابی با زبانی معمولی اما شفاف و دقیق توضیح دهند که چرا عباراتِ جمع‌آوری‌شده یاوه هستند و در عینِ حال معتبـر. و این جملات بی‌معنی که بین خطاهایِ فاحش و لفاظی‌هایِ میان‌تهی در نوسانند، طیِ چه فرآیندی به این حد از مقبولیت در جوامع دانشگاهی رسیده‌اند؟ کل کتاب بررسیِ موردی و مصداقیِ این مسائل است. ذکرِ یک نکته ضروری به نظر می‌رسد: شکی در این نیست که در جهان افکاری هم هستند که واقعاً دشوار و عمیقند و سخت بشود آن‌ها را با زبانی قابلِ فهم توضیح داد، اما از این طرف هم شکی نیست که شیادان همیشه و در عرصه‌های مختلف، فرم‌هایی به منظورِ پوشاندنِ جهل و صداقتِ فکری ابداع و استفاده کرده‌اند. حالا سوال این‌جاست که تفاوتِ این دو مقوله را از کجا بفهمیم؟ از کجا بفهمیم که یک پیچیدگی، ارجینال است و به هرحال در جهانِ خودش جای دارد؟ و آن دیگری لباسِ پادشاه است؟ خیلی خوب؛ کلی‌گویی آفَتِ ذهن است، سوکال و بریکمون فیزیکدان هستند، دقیقاً می‌دانند که چه می‌گویند و در موردِ چه امری قضاوت کرده‌اند. درجایی از کتاب متخصصانِ دیگر زمینه‌هایِ علوم و فناوری را به کاری مشابهِ آن‌چه در این کتاب کرده‌اند، دعوت می‌کنند. البته گفتنی‌ست جداً در مواردی از آثارِ این مشاهیر حتی نیازی به فیزیکدان بودن هم نیست تا قوامِ استدلال‌ها -اگر بشود نامش را استدلال گذاشت- سنجیده شود اما خوشبختانه سوکال و بریکمون را داریم تا مواردِ پرتعدادی از این دست سوءاستفاده‌ها و چراییِ غلط بودن این قبیل گزاره‌ها را برایِ‌مان روشن کنند. البته برآنم که کارِ ساینتیست "حال آوردنِ جگرِ موافقان و کباب کردنِ آنِ دیگران نیست" :v اما زدنِ شیرجه‌ای دقیق و ظریف، بدونِ دورخیز -تخصص- شدنی نیست و وارد شدنِ بدونِ زمینه به این حیطه‌ها همانا و سقوطی در سطح همان. ارتفاع گرفتن و فیگورِ صحیح اما منجر به شیرجه‌ای ماهرانه و تاریخی خواهد شد. چنان که این‌بار اسبِ تروایِ سوکال و بریکمون خوب تاخته است.مایه‌هایِ حقیقت در همان پروسه‌یِ به‌چاپ‌رسیدن نوشته‌یِ سوکال نهفته است، مقاله‌یِ سوکال نقیضه‌ای بود بر پایه‌یِ نقل‌قول‌ها و آثارِ روشنفکرانِ برجسته‌یِ فرانسوی دربابِ تعابیر ضمنی و ظاهریِ آن‌ها از علوم طبیعی و ریاضی. کارِ بزرگِ سوکال و همکارش اما تکه‌دوزیِ شیطنت‌آمیزِ این نقلِ‌قول‌ها به هم بود. درواقع ویراستارانِ مجله‌یِ «سوشال تکست» قاعدتاً درابتدا خیلی خوشحال شده‌اند وقتی چنین مقاله‌ای به منظورِ چاپ به آن‌ها سپرده شده، گو که از زبان خودِ آن‌ها باشد، و دقیقاً همان حرف‌هایی بوده که همیشه دوست داشته‌اند بشنوند، اما غافل بودند از خدعه‌ای که در راه بود به منظورِ ضربه زدن به جریان فکریِ مطبوع آن هم دقیق و خیلی تمیز. اقدامی به منظورِ رسوا کردن تمایز بینِ داوری‌هایِ ناظر به امورِ واقع با دیگر مراتبِ داوری. (ارزشی، فلسفی، سیاسی،...). مقاله‌یِ سوکال اگر قبل از چاپ به هر فیزیکدانِ معمولی هم داده می‌شد احتمالِ چاپ شدن آن صفر بود اما چون بر ایدئولوژیِ ویراستاران صحه گذاشت منتشر شد و هجویه‌یِ آلن سوکال مثلِ جاسوسی رفت و مأموریتش را به نحوِ احسن انجام داد و سپس رسانه‌ای شد.در بررسیِ این خَلطِ دیسیپلین‌هایِ گوناگون باهم -علومِ طبیعی/ علومِ انسانی (فی‌المثل)- شواهد به‌عنوانِ واقعیتِ بیرونی، موجه‌ترین جایگاهِ داوری را دارا هستند. به همین سبب، ابهام و توو-خالی بودنِ گزاره‌هایِ این دست «همه‌چیزدان‌ها» بهتر و بیشتر از هرکجا در هم‌نشینی با مباحثِ علمی مشخص می‌شود. عبارتِ معروفی‌ست جمله‌یِ زیر: Tell a lie once! and all your truths become questionable.به این برداشت که وقتی این روشنفکران در علمی به اتقانِ ریاضی، چنین استدلالاتِ مشعشعی -که در کتاب موجود است- از خود صادر کرده‌اند، چطور ممکن است به بقیه‌یِ استدلالاتِ‌شان شک نکرد؟ نقلِ‌قول‌هایِ عجیب و غریب فراوان در کتاب آمده: این‌که دلیلِ پیشرفتِ مکانیکِ جامدات نسبت به سیالات، ماهیتِ مردانه داشتنِ جامدات هست. یا فرمولِ sexuation ِ لاکان. یا نفهمیدنِ فرقِ اعدادِ گنگ با موهومی. یا ایریگاری که E=mc^2 را معادله‌ای با ماهیتِ جنسیتی می‌داند... و مزخرفاتِ دیگر. کتاب را که بخوانید اصلاً در پاره‌ای از موارد شک می‌کنید که مسعودِ فراستی این حرف‌ها را گفته و مشهور شده یا کسانی چون: لاکان، کریستوا، ایریگاری، لاتور، بودریار، دلوز، گوتاری،... .کتابِ «چرندیاتِ پست‌مدرن» با نام اصلی Intellectual Impostures سال ۸۴ توسط انتشارات ققنوس و با ترجمه‌یِ عرفان ثابتی منتشر شد، بعد از مدتی کتاب نایاب شد تا این‌که پارسال تجدیدِ چاپ شد. در نوعِ خود بسیار برانگیزاننده‌ست که در اِشِلی متفاوت، فرقه‌ای از خِیلِ انبوهِ حمله‌کنندگان به عقلانیت را، به تصویر می‌کشد. هرچه نوشتم کم است.مطالعه‌یِ این کتاب شدیداً پیشنهاد می‌شود.:)

  • Marshall
    2019-05-23 23:55

    Oh, how badly the Left needs more books like this, boldly championing scientific objectivity and facts over political or spiritual ideologies that abuse science to gain legitimacy and further their agendas.The story of the origin of this book is a playful one: the author submitted a parody article, called Transgressing the Boundaries, to a postmodern scientific journal. In it he demonstrates every abuse of science he's seen, conflating subjects that have nothing to do with each other, exaggerating, distorting, misunderstanding, and mis-stating scientific facts. He even ended it with a little political rant that had nothing whatsoever to do with science. Not only was the paper accepted by the journal, it was featured, and lauded by postmodern intellectuals. Needless to say, it was quite embarrassing for the journal and its readers when they found out it was a parody.He was trying to make a very serious point: science should not be abused as a tool to gain legitimacy for social, spiritual, or political agendas. The very fact that the paper was accepted and lauded shows how welcoming postmodern intellectuals are of such abuse. He points out that this isn't so much a danger to science as it is to the very social and political agendas it's twisted to serve. When concepts are abused like this, there tends to be a backlash when this comes to light, as it always does. Enemies of these agendas then use this as ammunition against them.Conservatives are notorious for being anti-science, but the Left has its own antagonisms. They're so focused on equality and tolerance that they sometimes ignore the hard facts, twist those facts to suit their agendas, or even go so far as to claim that there is no such thing as objective reality or facts at all. Each person gets to have their own reality. This makes all debate or criticism meaningless, and any attempt to do so can be classified as bullying, as it doesn't respect other people's realities. This is what this book means by postmodernism.This book basically picks up where the parody left off, displaying several examples of articles which abuse science in bizarre and sometimes meaningless ways. It meticulously examines these articles, and exposes the abuses. It's interesting to read the examples and feel confused and a little intimidated by all the jargon, and then watch the author pick it apart and show that, no, it really is meaningless, and probably written for the express purpose of intimidating or impressing readers. Seeing this done over and over really made me a more critical reader by strengthening my own ability to see through arguments that abuse science and distort the facts for the sake of ideology.However, this book does have a tendency to over-quote, which he said he does because he doesn't want to be accused of taking things out of context. But after a few chapters, this whole exercise started to get tiring and dull. In fact, he's not a very engaging writer. Nonetheless, I highly recommend skimming the appendix, which includes the original parody article and the author's comments on it, as well as a chapter or two from the book. Then read the Epilogue, which is very engaging, beautifully written, and does a fabulous job at summarizing his points. Though difficult to read, I do believe this book is important.

  • Петър Стойков
    2019-05-26 19:02

    Няма да навлизам в подробности относно философските течения на структурализма, постструктурализма и постмодернизма и повлияните от тях културни и политически течения, така или иначе ако се интересувате от тия неща сте поне малко наясно, а ако не - няма да ви стане ясно от 2 абзаца. Все пак, за всеки здравомислещ човек е очевидно, че 99% от "философията" на тия течения са пълни и абсолютни безсмислици, а сега даже истински професори са се захванали да докажат, че това е точно така. Книгата произлиза от известният експеримент на Алън Зокал да "напише" статия в стила, в който този вид философи използват, с множество цитати от по-известните представители на гореспоменатите течения и да я изпрати за публикация в реномирано философско списание. Експериментът всъщност се състои във факта, че Зокал нарочно пише статията така, че да е абсолютно безсмислена, пълна с псевдонаучни, но помпозно звучащи дълги, сложни думи, с объркан и натруфен език и словоред. Статията не само бива харесана, но и публикувана и то точно в юбилейното издание на списанието, темата на което е да "развенчае критиките срещу постструктурализма".В настоящата книга авторът навлиза п0-дълбоко в писанията на известни (френски, от там произлиза болшинството от тая гняз) пост-структуралисти като Дерида, Иригаре, Кръстева и т.н. и се занимава единствено и само с техните нескопосани опити да вмъкнат научни термини и концепции в обяснението на своите идеи, в болшинството от случаите изключително нескопосано, не на място и очевидно без да имат дори повърхностно разбиране за тях. Друга голяма част от писанията на тоя тип философи не толкова възприемат погрешна или детински повърхностна интерпретация на основни математически и физични концепции, колкото представляват просто дълги, объркани изречения без абсолютно никакъв смисъл.Любимият ми пример е Иригаре която (макар че да цитирам нейни писания е като да ритам умряло куче вече) смята например, че формулата на Айнщайн за E=MC² е сексистка, защото "издига скоростта на светлината като по-важна от други скорости, които са жизнено важни за човека". Или как пълното физично описание на механиката на флуидите било "изостанало" от обяснението на механиката на твърдите тела, защото "флуидите се свързват с женственото, с менструацията, твърдите тела с мъжкия член", поради което учените "й обръщали по-малко внимание", защото, естествено, са сексисти. Щеше ми се това да са единствените примери от нейното "творчество", но за съжаление даже не са и най-смешните...Знаех си аз, че не само аз мисля това за претенциозно говно.

  • Justin
    2019-05-03 19:12

    Although this is an important book, it is not a very enjoyable one to read, for the simple fact that the authors felt compelled to quote at length from some of the most disfigured and meaningless jumbles of words that I have ever seen sewn together in the guise of sentences.A major portion of the book is given over to reproductions of original 'postmodernist' sources that ramble for pages on end, with trifling comments by the authors on how the different scientific concepts have been misinterpreted or misused. However, the long barrage of academic verbiage is such manifest nonsense to begin with that there is little left for the sagacity of Sokal and Bricmont to say.If a reader is not convinced of the absurdity of the postmodern examples within the first two sentences of a quotation, they probably so completely lack of the discriminating facility that another twenty pages will not do them any more good.There are only so many ways to call a fraud a fraud, so many ways to point to a syntactic confusion of adjectives and say, 'this is gibberish.'Much more instructive were the sections between the criticisms of the individual postmodern authors, that dealt more broadly with the roles of science and reason in the humanities and politics. Despite what other reviewers have said, there is nothing in these parts which does not seem to me to be thoroughly reasonable and correct.Most incomprehensible is how anyone could have ever taken these postmodernist authors seriously in the first place - how entire segments of the academic world could have so completely taken leave of their senses as to give even one of these imposters an academic post - let alone legions of them spanning several generations.By sheer chance, I recently ran into this comment by Jonathan Swift which seems to have some bearing on the situation:"There are certain common Privileges of a Writer,the Benefit whereof, I hope, there will be no Reason to doubt;Particularly, that where I am not understood, it shall be concluded,that something very useful and profound is coucht underneath." (1704)

  • Ali Faqihi
    2019-04-28 23:04

    Important and at times humorous book by Sokal and Brimont where they depict the pseudoprofundity of few post-modern "philosophers" of the 20th century and come to demonstrate how these charlatans abuse complex mathematical/hard-science concepts -which they got no clue about- into some meaningless set of social "theories". I honestly don't understand how some of these "intellectuals" were/are taken seriously, Lacan and Baudrillard then, today in the form of Ronell and Zizek. Additionally and above all, the book provides very important lessons and critical analysis of issues regarding epistomology, which I think will make an important read for students of philosophy and social sciences in general. 

  • احسان شاه‌قاسمی
    2019-05-14 17:08

    کتابی انقلابی در علوم انسانی که هر دانشجو و پژوهشگری باید آن را بخواند

  • Leila T.
    2019-05-20 18:03

    as part of my online FUNDAEC course, i learnt about a hoax that was perpetrated against an American cultural studies journal in 1996. a physicist at the New York University, Alan Sokal, felt that the liberties the academic humanities and social sciences were taking with mathematics, science, scientific methodology, the history of science and reality itself were becoming postmodern parodies of postmodernism. he felt that offering advice, a critique, or a straightforward list of the mathematical and scientific mistakes that these academics were making would be dismissed out of hand; the way Sokal phrases it is: "The targets of my critique have by now become a self-perpetuating academic subculture that typically ignores (or disdains) reasoned criticism from the outside."so, feeling "troubled by an apparent decline in the standards of intellectual rigor in certain precincts of the American academic humanities", but wondering whether he could offer commentary as a "mere physicist" (" if I find myself unable to make head or tail of jouissance and différance, perhaps that just reflects my own inadequacy"), he devised a little test to measure "prevailing intellectual standards": "I decided to try a modest (though admittedly uncontrolled) experiment: Would a leading North American journal of cultural studies---whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross---publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions?"you already know the punchline: the journal, "Social Text", did publish the article in a special edition called "Science Wars". Sokal's was the only article written by a scientist, and he called it "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity". (yep, you can read it.) the article contained non sequiturs, neologisms, jargon, quotations from inter-disciplinary texts, assertions without argument, and, most mind-numbingly of all, long, convoluted, meaningless sentences. apparently the editors didn't realize it was a parody. here is an excerpt (i've left the footnotes in, because some of the juiciest stuff is there):At about the same time, in the social and psychological sciences Jacques Lacan pointed out the key role played by differential topology: This diagram [the Möbius strip:] can be considered the basis of a sort of essential inscription at the origin, in the knot which constitutes the subject. This goes much further than you may think at first, because you can search for the sort of surface able to receive such inscriptions. You can perhaps see that the sphere, that old symbol for totality, is unsuitable. A torus, a Klein bottle, a cross-cut surface, are able to receive such a cut. And this diversity is very important as it explains many things about the structure of mental disease. If one can symbolize the subject by this fundamental cut, in the same way one can show that a cut on a torus corresponds to the neurotic subject, and on a cross-cut surface to another sort of mental disease.57 58 As Althusser rightly commented, ``Lacan finally gives Freud's thinking the scientific concepts that it requires''.59 More recently, Lacan's topologie du sujet has been applied fruitfully to cinema criticism60 and to the psychoanalysis of AIDS.61 In mathematical terms, Lacan is here pointing out that the first homology group62 of the sphere is trivial, while those of the other surfaces are profound; and this homology is linked with the connectedness or disconnectedness of the surface after one or more cuts.63 Furthermore, as Lacan suspected, there is an intimate connection between the external structure of the physical world and its inner psychological representation qua knot theory: this hypothesis has recently been confirmed by Witten's derivation of knot invariants (in particular the Jones polynomial64) from three-dimensional Chern-Simons quantum field theory.65to read about all the different kinds of nonsense that's in there, you can sift through some of Sokal's papers on this "affair", since, of course, it became a big deal not only in academic circles (of both American and Europe) but also in the news. the American public became anxious that their tax dollars were being spent on universities and professors who were teaching their children not to believe in an external world.all of this is background, actually. i read "Fashionable Nonsense" by Sokal and Jean Bricmont (first published in French under the title "Impostures Intellectuelles") after reading "The Sokal Hoax", put together by another cultural studies' journal, "Lingua Franca". the first one looks at specific writers in the humanities who are the main offenders when it comes to writing about science without bothering to inform themselves of the basics of what they're talking about. (an example of this kind of writing: "it now seems appropriate to reconsider the notions of acceleration and deceleration (what physicists call positive and negative speeds)"). the book quotes extensively from Kristeva, Lacan, Deleuze and others---all famous, familiar names to anyone who's done more than a semester of a sociology undergraduate---and points out exact transgressions of logic and outright compelling interest in all of this stems from a few things, i worked out. one, i feel woefully undereducated in basic math and technology. i used to feel that this didn't really matter that much, because my interests and strengths lay elsewhere. now, i feel hungry to learn about general relativity and sub-atomic particles, and to make shaun talk to me about unification theory. (or whatever it's called.) an anecdote in "Fashionable Nonsense" solidified and gave motivation to this feeling i've had: A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's? I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question -- such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read? -- not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had.15two, i have a moral and intellectual conundrum about the importance of scientific method and the valuing of alternative, especially indigenous or traditional, stories about the world. maybe reading these books has enforced my feeling that they are in competition, which is usually inherent in a discussion that includes a "variety of truths". maybe there is not a competition. but what my opinion comes down to is that each culture and people of the world is contributing, and will contribute, to human civilization.three, i studied for three years for an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts. i was mad when i discovered that we were expected to read Heidegger's (incomprehensible) philosophising about Being without reference to his uncompromising Nazism, even after the war when everybody and their heil hitler were revoking allegiance to the regime that---it was being discovered---had perpetrated an unthinkable genocide. and when i say "without reference" i mean that not one of our lecturers or tutors mentioned his politics at any point, even when i asked.i was confused when i bush-wacked my way through polysyllabic linguistic contortions of esoteric articulation and realized that these writers were saying they thought that divisions between high and low class (or culture) and disparities between the rich and poor needed to be broken down so that we could have a more egalitarian society.and i was desparate when i tried to cram in knowledge and insight about society, culture, politics, literature, governance, and science from those writers who were the most obtuse, the most verbose, and the most self-involved.not all of the papers that i studied and researched were like the ones Sokal parodies and quotes in his hoax article. and for the most part i learned from and admired my teachers. but in reading these two books i felt vindicated for the questions and feelings i had as a student at university when i decided that there was no benefit in my attempting to understand a passage like " Instead of a simple "either/or'' structure, deconstruction attempts to elaborate a discourse that says neither "either/or'', nor "both/and'' nor even "neither/nor'', while at the same time not totally abandoning these logics either."and that's why i liked these books.

  • Onek
    2019-05-06 21:22

    "Vaya, vaya, vaya..."

  • Pejman Norouzi
    2019-05-01 21:55

    ایده‌ی مرکزی کتاب جذاب است و برای منی که در حوزه‌ی فلسفه(مدرنیسم و پست‌مدرنیسم) کلاس اولی هستم فقط در حد ایده حذاب بود . به سختی به پایان رساندمش و به نظرم شاید یکبار دیگر باید خواندش تا بتوانم نظر محکمتری بدهم اما در کل شاید یک بخشی از ایرادم هم معطوف به ترجمه باشد که خیلی روان نبود.