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Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  181 ratings  ·  27 reviews
When physicist Alan Sokal revealed that his 1996 article, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," published in Social Text, was a hoax, the ensuing scandal made the front page of the New York Times and caused an uproar amongst the post-modernists he had so hilariously-and convincingly-parodied.

Now, in Beyond the Hoax, Sokal

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Hardcover, 465 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2008)
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3.93  · 
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 ·  181 ratings  ·  27 reviews


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David
This book is about postmodern relativism, pseudoscience, "alternative" medicine (like homeopathy), and religion. As one of my housemates pointed out to me, it's everything I hate, in one book!

Which made me think. Indeed, everything that truly irritates me intellectually is linked, by a blatant, even belligerent, disregard for reality, rationalism, and empiricism. And that's what irritates Sokal, too. And people who say science is a limited white male way of thinking, which cannot properly evalua
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David
Oct 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
In this work, Sokal provides a very detailed annotation to his 1996 spoof "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity". This article was chock-full of scientific absurdities and approving quotes of utter nonsense from leading science studies scholars. Yet it was accepted and appeared in a special issue of a leading postmodern journal. Sokal's annotations, which appear here for the first time in print, reveal in jaw-dropping detail the depth of his spoo ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
The Sokal Hoax in the nineties happened when Alan Sokal, a physicist, had a paper published using trendy terms from postmodern discourse and a ton of citations from well known post-modern philosophers it was a paper purposely put together to be profound sounding gibberish and it fooled the editors of social text. The right got a few talking points back then from it in the news and it has largely been forgotten since.

Sokal was not a conservative. he was a person of the left. He published to pape
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John
Nov 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Alan Sokal is best known in the academic world for his overly-clever hoax. In 1996 he published an essay in Social Text, a postmodern journal, full of ridiculous "postmodernist" statements about quantum physics. His goal was to make fun of literary and cultural critics who had been taking on the scientific establishment by questioning its methods of seeking truth. The postmodernist perspective (actually, to be fair, one perspective), in a crude nutshell, is that truth and knowledge are relative ...more
Kerem Cankocak
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Şakanın Ardından' Sokal vakasındaki tartışmaları toplayan bir kitaptır. Kitabın ilk bölümünde Social Text'te yayınlanan makalenin tam metni ve açıklamaları sağlı-sollu yer almaktadır. Diğer bölümleri ise bilim ve bilim felsefesi tartışmalarına ayrılmıştır. Kendisini 'Sol görüşlü' olarak niteleyen Sokal en çok sol çevrelerdeki bilim düşmanlığının tehlikelerine dikkati çekmektedir. Kitapta, Sokal Vakası tartışmaların yanısıra, Bilim Felsefesinin kadim sorunları da ele alınmaktadır: Popper'cı bili ...more
Lobstergirl
Mar 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Shar Peis

The largest chunk of this book is actually his other book, Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science. The first chapter is an annotated text of the article that constituted the big hoax in the journal Social Text. And the original article of course had footnotes, so this one has double footnotes. It's exhausting to plow through, and Sokal's style is very self-congratulatory, full of humble-brags and inside jokes.

Another vast chapter is a book review of Sam Harris's The End
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Mark Edon
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Much more than I expected in more ways than one.

I expected the text of the Sokal Hoax, exposing anti-reality post modernism, but the extensive footnotes where a bonus.

Then there was plenty of food for thought exploring more examples that started from merely doubting the existence of a real world and the equality of all points of view when it comes to matters of fact but progressed into the direct promotion of nonsense beliefs at the expense of science and to the detriment of innocents.

I was p
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Ugh
Jul 02, 2011 rated it liked it
The blurb doesn't give much away, so I'll fill you in on the content as I go along:

Chapter 1 (60-odd pages plus bibliography) is a reproduction of Sokal's 1996 publication in social science journal 'Social Text', which he later revealed to be deliberately composed of ambiguity, misused terms, and quotes of what Sokal considered to poor science or else total nonsense. The reproduction is also accompanied by commentary from Sokal in the form of annotations. That means your attention is divided thr
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Fiona
Dec 08, 2009 rated it liked it
The only aspect of the Sokal Hoax I was aware of before I read this book was that the hoax article Sokal wrote about physics was submitted to a publication that did not subject articles to peer review. This seemed to me to make the hoax not quite as damning for the social sciences as opponents of poststructuralism and postmodernism claimed, since it was really more embarassing for the editors of the journal than the entire academic field of the cultural analysis of science.

I found Sokal's critiq
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Liam
Sokal protests that this is not a collection of B-sides, so to speak, but a continuous whole, even if its parts were previously published separately. Unfortunately the consistency is not the same all the way through, and this was not a text which was designed to be read from cover to cover in the same way that the previous book, Fashionable Nonsense, was. Many sections seem as if they were a pouring-out of paragraphs clipped from sessions at the library, with minimal commentary.

When Sokal draws
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Kirk
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: popular-science
It took me two tries to get through this book. While I agree with Sokal on virtually all issues, this is a loosely collection of essays that range from great to merely so-so.

I learned of the Sokal Affair in college, and it helped to crystallize why, as a liberal and scientist in training, I was so bothered by some of the rhetoric coming from the academic left. Sokal draws firm lines, defending the legacy of the Enlightenment from the relativism of the post-modern left and the faith-based dogmat
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Dominic Pakenham
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was divided into three parts, and the thread that connected them was not sufficiently well wrought to give the sense of a seamless reader experience: I'm not sure how the whole thing was compiled; but, as a reader, it's tedious to have to find the same argument repeated (word-for-word) in several successive chapters. Presumably Sokal wrote a series of essays, all of which concerned the worst excesses of postmodernism, and someone persuaded him to stitch them together to create a book. ...more
Gideon
Aug 18, 2008 marked it as to-read
Shelves: want
Oh I want this...

Damn post-modernists.. Between them and the positivists, and the 'let's make everything science" crowd, they pretty much ruined the Academy.
Evangelos
Jul 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Got this for the hoax essay. There's other interesting essays too, although sometimes repetitive. I skimmed through some them, didn't read through. I'll go back to the annotations for the essay later.
Koen Crolla
May 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Pretty disappointing. This is a collection of essays, of which the first is an annotated version of the hoax paper and the rest is largely uninteresting.

The problem with arguing against postmodernists and relativists is that nobody is a postmodernist or relativist because they genuinely don't understand scientific epistemology; they're postmodernists and relativists because they're intellectually dishonest and want to ``win'' arguments or be fashionable. Everyone understands why these people are
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K
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Sokal is a philosophically-minded scientist who deals with social and political issues in a very interesting and accessible manner. This book is a collection of essays that deal with the philosophy of science, religion, his infamous hoax-article (along with commentary) and, as one can expect, post-modern theory. Regarding the actual content of the book one cannot find much to nag about, however, it does feel disjointed. It can also feel partly underdeveloped since the essays found here are argui ...more
Rebecca
This book brings together a number of important critiques of post-modernism and goes beyond the mocking of scientific ignorance and misuses of scientific terms that appeared in the writing immediately following the famous "Sokal Hoax" on the journal _Social Text_.
I was initially skeptical of Sokal's negative assessments of some post-modern feminist and anti-colonialist critiques of science but his detailed discussions of both theories and related movements were ultimately very convincing. I wo
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Stephen Cranney
Feb 02, 2013 rated it liked it
The first couple of chapters (the ones describing the hoax) were pretty good, but after that it veers off into armchair philosophizing about the philosophy of science; it's not that I didn't agree with him on most points, but if I'm going to spend time reading about the philosophy of science, I'm going to read what a specialist says about it. Finally, the last couple of chapters recycled a lot of "New Atheist" arguments that I've heard a thousand times before, so nothing new. However, he is a de ...more
Luis León
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excelente libro de cabecera para todo escéptico científico, con el cual dormir debajo de la almohada. Explica en detalle la meditada elección de cada frase en su paper motivo del Escándalo Sokal y entrega una contundente refutación al postmodernismo absurdo, haciéndose cargo de las visiones críticas de la ciencia y su ecosistema en la medida que estén bien fundamentadas. Expone la cháchara delirante que se ha apoderado de la Academia en Humanidades y el impacto social que lleva la negación de la ...more
Brett
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Sokal ends up repeating some of his arguments a few too many times since this is a collection of related essays written over 10 or so years, but this should be required reading for both scientists and its critics, especially with regards to epistemological issues.
David Greenhalgh
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The first section, the original hoax plus commentary should be on every undergrad curriculum as a lesson in not taking anything without questioning.
Dimitri Yatsenko
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture
An uncompromising defense of thinking clearly.
Andreas Lindblad
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Very funny and important. Alan Sokal digs deeply (and take stabs at) how postmodernism tries to debase the authority of the natural sciences.
John
Sep 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 01-bowdoinham
Excellent critique of the overreaching of deconstructionist social theory -- which I am sympathetic to, in general.
Jitney
rated it it was amazing
May 06, 2017
James Creechan
rated it it was amazing
Jan 17, 2015
JOSE MARIA
rated it it was amazing
May 01, 2016
Sarna
rated it really liked it
Nov 08, 2010
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Alan David Sokal (born 1955) is a professor of mathematics at University College London and professor of physics at New York University. He works in statistical mechanics and combinatorics. To the general public he is best known for his criticism of postmodernism, resulting in the Sokal affair in 1996.

Sokal received his B.A. from Harvard College in 1976 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1
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“None of us, I think, in the mid-’70s … would have thought we’d be devoting so much mental space now to confront religion. We thought that matter had long been closed. — Ian McEwan” 2 likes
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