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Day of the Curmudgeons
am 22. Januar 2000
Sokal and Bricmont certainly come to the rescue of anyone who has tried to sift through the (often intentionally) opaque writings of many postmodern thinkers. And this book is not without its uses. If nothing else, it teaches us not to attempt to bamboozle our readers into submission by pretending to a knowledge we do not possess. There will, one could hope, always be a Sokal or a Bricmont out there who will discover our lack of ethical treatment of subject and audience, and will expose us. Or as Morrisey of the Smiths put it, "There's always someone, somewhere, with a big nose, who knows -- who'll trip you up and laugh when you fall."
And Sokal and Bricmont do stick their big noses into some very influential places. And we do laugh.
The problem is that, despite an admirable, almost sexy, and certainly very scientific rigidity of analysis, Sokal and Bricmont refuse to tackle their targets, preferring to sic the crowd on them. This book would have been five or six times the work it is, had its authors taken their opponents to the mat, philosophically. After reading "Fashionable Nonsense," I was left with the feeling that I had just been present at a promising name-calling, but had been cheated of a knock-down, drag-out street brawl. "Fashionable Nonsense" could have benefitted from that brawl.
Do not mistake me. Sokal and Bricmont employ a logic which is firm as steel. They pare away bad science and pseudoscience mercilessly. In fact, their reasoning reminds one of an aging boxer returning to the ring to knock out one more young, fit opponent before retiring.
Sokal and Bricmont will not revive the Age of Enlightenment with a book like this. Perhaps if they were to engage the actual philosophies of their targets... But that is a subject for another book.