Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science

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9780312204075: Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science

In 1996, Alan Sokal published an essay in the hip intellectual magazine Social Text parodying the scientific but impenetrable lingo of contemporary theorists. Here, Sokal teams up with Jean Bricmont to expose the abuse of scientific concepts in the writings of today's most fashionable postmodern thinkers. From Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva to Luce Irigaray and Jean Baudrillard, the authors document the errors made by some postmodernists using science to bolster their arguments and theories. Witty and closely reasoned, Fashionable Nonsense dispels the notion that scientific theories are mere "narratives" or social constructions, and explored the abilities and the limits of science to describe the conditions of existence.

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Review:

In 1996, an article entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" was published in the cultural studies journal Social Text. Packed with recherché quotations from "postmodern" literary theorists and sociologists of science, and bristling with imposing theorems of mathematical physics, the article addressed the cultural and political implications of the theory of quantum gravity. Later, to the embarrassment of the editors, the author revealed that the essay was a hoax, interweaving absurd pronouncements from eminent intellectuals about mathematics and physics with laudatory--but fatuous--prose.

In Fashionable Nonsense, Alan Sokal, the author of the hoax, and Jean Bricmont contend that abuse of science is rampant in postmodernist circles, both in the form of inaccurate and pretentious invocation of scientific and mathematical terminology and in the more insidious form of epistemic relativism. When Sokal and Bricmont expose Jacques Lacan's ignorant misuse of topology, or Julia Kristeva's of set theory, or Luce Irigaray's of fluid mechanics, or Jean Baudrillard's of non-Euclidean geometry, they are on safe ground; it is all too clear that these virtuosi are babbling.

Their discussion of epistemic relativism--roughly, the idea that scientific and mathematical theories are mere "narrations" or social constructions--is less convincing, however, in part because epistemic relativism is not as intrinsically silly as, say, Regis Debray's maunderings about Gödel, and in part because the authors' own grasp of the philosophy of science frequently verges on the naive. Nevertheless, Sokal and Bricmont are to be commended for their spirited resistance to postmodernity's failure to appreciate science for what it is. --Glenn Branch

From the Publisher:

"No doubt there exist thoughts so profound that most of us will not understand the language in which they are expressed. And no doubt there is also language designed to be unintelligible in order to conceal an absence of honest thought. But how are we to tell the difference? What if it really takes an expert eye to detect whether the emperor has clothes? In Fashionable Nonsense, Sokal and Bricmont give us the background information that should convince any reasonable person that the hoax was earnestly needed and richly justified. A splendid book." --Richard Dawkins, author of Climbing Mount Improbable and The Blind Watchmaker

"An excellent discussion...The present book is a plea for a sensible understanding of science and a welcome antidote to irrationality." --Simon Moss, Houston Chronicle

"Sokal and Bricmont's book should have an impact at least on the next generation of students...Although Sokal and Bricmont focus on the abuse and misrepresentation of science by a dozen French intellectuals, their book broaches a much larger topic -- the uneasy place of science and the understanding of scientific rationality in contemporary culture." --Thomas Nagel, The New Republic

"The spirit of expertly delivered comeuppance inhabits Fashionable Nonsense...Their case is strong." --Thomas Lewis, San Francisco Chronicle

"The modern sciences are among the most remarkable of human achievements and cultural treasures. Like others, they merit--and reward--respectful and scrupulous engagement. Sokal and Bricmont show how easily such truisms can recede from view, and how harmful the consequences can be for intellectual life and human affairs. They also provide a thoughtful and constructive critical analysis of fundamental issues of empirical inquiry. It is a timely and substantial contribution." --Noam Chomsky

"Take the most hallowed names in current French theoretical thinking, divide by one of the sharpest and most irreverent minds in America, multiply by a half-dozen examples, render in good, clear English--and you have a thoroughly hilarious romp through the postmodernist academy. Two years ago, Sokal struck a devastating blow against intellectual obscurantism with his famous Social Text parody, and Fashionable Nonsense delivers the perfect coup de grace." --Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Blood Rites and The Snarling Citizen

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Descripción Saint Martin s Press Inc., United States, 1999. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. In 1996, Alan Sokal published an essay in the hip intellectual magazine Social Text parodying the scientific but impenetrable lingo of contemporary theorists. Here, Sokal teams up with Jean Bricmont to expose the abuse of scientific concepts in the writings of today s most fashionable postmodern thinkers. From Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva to Luce Irigaray and Jean Baudrillard, the authors document the errors made by some postmodernists using science to bolster their arguments and theories. Witty and closely reasoned, Fashionable Nonsense dispels the notion that scientific theories are mere narratives or social constructions, and explored the abilities and the limits of science to describe the conditions of existence. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780312204075

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Descripción Saint Martin s Press Inc., United States, 1999. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. In 1996, Alan Sokal published an essay in the hip intellectual magazine Social Text parodying the scientific but impenetrable lingo of contemporary theorists. Here, Sokal teams up with Jean Bricmont to expose the abuse of scientific concepts in the writings of today s most fashionable postmodern thinkers. From Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva to Luce Irigaray and Jean Baudrillard, the authors document the errors made by some postmodernists using science to bolster their arguments and theories. Witty and closely reasoned, Fashionable Nonsense dispels the notion that scientific theories are mere narratives or social constructions, and explored the abilities and the limits of science to describe the conditions of existence. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780312204075

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Descripción Saint Martin s Press Inc., United States, 1999. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In 1996, Alan Sokal published an essay in the hip intellectual magazine Social Text parodying the scientific but impenetrable lingo of contemporary theorists. Here, Sokal teams up with Jean Bricmont to expose the abuse of scientific concepts in the writings of today s most fashionable postmodern thinkers. From Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva to Luce Irigaray and Jean Baudrillard, the authors document the errors made by some postmodernists using science to bolster their arguments and theories. Witty and closely reasoned, Fashionable Nonsense dispels the notion that scientific theories are mere narratives or social constructions, and explored the abilities and the limits of science to describe the conditions of existence. Nº de ref. de la librería BTE9780312204075

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