Brett Williams's Reviews > Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science

Fashionable Nonsense by Alan Sokal
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it was amazing

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.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 10, 2007 – Finished Reading
April 1, 2014 – Shelved

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