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Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Alan D. Sokal , Jean Bricmont
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November 1998
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.
-- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch .

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  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 300 Seiten
  • Verlag: St Martin's Press (November 1998)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0312195451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312195458
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 20,8 x 14,5 x 3 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 3.2 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (41 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 551.238 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
  • Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen

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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


"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 understanding of scientific rationality in contemporary culture."--Thomas Nagel, The New Republic

"An excellent discussion . . . a plea for a sensible understanding of science and a welcome antidote to irrationality."--Simon Moss, Houston Chronicle
-- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch .

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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen The postmodern emperors have no clothes 25. November 1998
Von Ein Kunde
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I'm a reader of Lingua Franca and was interested to see Jim Holt's full page review of this book in the NY Times Book Review (Holt writes for Lingua Franca). Sokal and Bricmont have been at the center of the ongoing debate about relativism and whether science can accurately describe certain aspects of the world. In this book they argue against bad science, and specifically against the use of science as "proof" of concepts,theories, metaphors, and shaky arguments about social sciences, psychology, literary studies, and so on. They also argue for the ability of science to establish a truth, to literally prove something (this in response to the postmodern notion that truth is simply a social construct, and is therefore relative to the perspective, language, culture, circumstance, etc. of the person seeking to establish a given truth.) I found the book to be well argued, often funny, at times dense (because the authors take pains to explain why the science of Kristeva, Baudrillard, Latour, etc. is bad),overall lively and interesting.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen One of the Best Exposes in Many Years 7. Dezember 1998
Von Ein Kunde
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Sokal has performed a valuable service to the cause of rational thought. While far from exhaustive in discussing each of his targets, he provides enough information to allow readers to judge for themselves. He does exactly what he promises, not to analyze the philosophical ideas but rather to assess the competence of assorted thinkers to draw upon scientific thought in their work. The querulous disciples of the thinkers he targets are too cowardly and dishonest to seriously engage with the issues raised. Look at some of the other reader comments to get an idea of how freely people merely change the subject rather than confront the grotesque failings of a variety of "postmodern" pseudo-intellectuals to understand the terms and ideas they casually trash. Every thinking person should read this book!!!
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5.0 von 5 Sternen devastating critique of intellectual dishonesty 3. Januar 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Sokal presents a notion that in most circles would be self evident, but in the world of post modern philosophers is apparently novel - that if you are to cite scientific sources and ideas and then criticise scientific methods one should:
a. have some minimal knowledge of these ideas, and b. have some minimal knowledge of scientific methods.
That he could submit an article of his own which was replete with the errors he exposes, and have it published in a prestigious journal, drives home the point that these "philosophers" haven't a clue.
A breath of fresh air that deflates intellectual terrorism and pomposity.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen at last 15. Dezember 1998
Von Ein Kunde
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
At last a thorough and funny attack on postmodern nonsense. Looking at the reactions from the postmodern world, you can't help but feel that no matter how hollow and preposterous the articles or books of a writer are, there will always be people to defend him or her. Why? Do they hate reason? Do they think complicated things can only be described in a complicated way? Are they looking for a substitute for religion? Here's a subject sociologists should dive into.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Should be read by everyone into social science. 26. Mai 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
At first, I have to admit I enjoyed this book because of some personal reasons: as History graduate I was concerned and disappointed by the effects of posmodern theories in the social sciences. As Sokal and Bricmont say, natural sciences have nothing to fear from all that, but History! Sokal and Bricmont have commented the main and most important works of the posmodern doctrine, but maybe they haven't read the kind of stupidities and nonsenses arranged by the average posmodern followers, not to talk about the surrealistic discussions you can have with some of them. All that is on its way to destroy humanities and transform them into some kind of incomprehensible mystifications.
Maybe worst are the consequences in pedagogy: I've read that students errors shoulnd't be corrected by teachers, they simply express the "internal dynamic" of the student. An that in an official regulation for secondary teachers! Everyone can imagine what kind of education will outcome from that. Seeems like someone want us to be as stupid as possible.
But if that wasn't all, I am, as a progressist, even more worried about epistemological relativity. I couldn't and still cannot see what's progressive in the statement that there's no absolute truth and that every social or cultural group has his own relative truth. I simply haven't heard any better argument to justify ideas like negation of holocaust or white suprematism or any other absurds and evident falsehoods in the same or similar way. If neonazis defend and are convinced by those "theories", are they in the same level of truth than the victims of the holocaust? To be crude: is the holocaust a social discourse, only referable to their victims? To answer fast and clear: NO, there is a real and verifiable truth.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen This good book could have been better 16. Februar 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Sokal and Bricmont's project was long overdue: exposing the fraudulent use of scientific jargon by a number of our most prominent contemporary theorists. Of course, even without references to science, the language of post-modernism would still be a hopelessly turgid mish-mash of pretentious jargon, but you have to start somewhere, so I welcomed the appearance of this book.
Having just finished it, I think Fashionable Nonsense is well worth reading, but it's not quite the triumph I had pictured. The chapters vary greatly in quality and in general Sokal and Bricmont should have spent less time quoting and more time explaining and analyzing. The sections on specific intellectuals are more sucessful when they follow this approach. I thought the demolitions of Bruno Latour and Luce Irigay were quite convincing. However, as a couple of readers have already pointed out, the chapter on Deleuze & Guattari is a decided letdown: interminable quotations followed by almost no substantive commentary. I know Sokal and Bricmont aren't professional writers, but it doesn't appear that they had much editorial help, either.
In a way, the more general chapters are the most impressive ones here: the first "Intermezzo" has a useful analysis of the shortcomings of Karl Popper's work and the overreaction it produced (by Feyerabend and others). The "Epilogue" is in many ways the strongest and most convincing statement Sokal has yet made about the damage and mistrust created by the aggressive mindlessness of postmodernism. After all, Sokal and Bricmont are really doing two different things in this book: exposing those who appropriate scientific ideas without knowing what they are discussing (i.e.
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