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November 14 2009


The stated goal of the book is not to attack "philosophy, the humanities or the social sciences in general...[but] to warn those who work in them (especially students) against some manifest cases of charlatanism." In particular to "deconstruct" the notion that some books and writers are difficult because they deal with profound and difficult ideas. "If the texts seem incomprehensible, it is for the excellent reason that they mean precisely nothing."

The book includes long extracts from the works of Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Paul Virilio, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Luce Irigaray, Bruno Latour, and Jean Baudrillard who are considered by some to be leading academics of Continental philosophy, critical theory, psychoanalysis or social sciences. Sokal and Bricmont set out to show how those intellectuals have used concepts from the physical sciences and mathematics incorrectly. The extracts are intentionally rather long to avoid accusations of taking sentences out of context.

Sokal and Bricmont claim that they do not intend to analyze postmodernist thought in general. They aim to draw attention to the abuse of concepts from mathematics and physics, where abuse means:

  • Using scientific or pseudoscientific terminology without bothering much about what these words mean.
  • Importing concepts from the natural sciences into the humanities without the slightest justification, and without providing any rationale for their use.
  • Displaying superficial erudition by shamelessly throwing around technical terms where they are irrelevant, presumably to impress and intimidate the non-specialist reader.
  • Manipulating words and phrases that are, in fact, meaningless. Self-assurance on topics far beyond the competence of the author and exploiting the prestige of science to give discourses a veneer of rigor.

The book gives a chapter to each of the above mentioned authors, "the tip of iceberg" of a group of intellectual practices that can be described as "mystification, deliberately obscure language, confused thinking and the misuse of scientific concepts." For example, Luce Irigaray is criticised for asserting that E=mc2 is a "sexed equation" because "it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us"; and for asserting that fluid mechanics is unfairly neglected because it deals with "feminine" fluids in contrast to "masculine" rigid mechanics. Similarly, Lacan is criticized for drawing analogies between topology and mental illness that, in Sokal and Bricmont's view, are unsupported by any argument and are "not just false: [they] are gibberish".

— About the book "Fashionable Nonsense" - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Reposted fromlisa lisa viaantifuchs antifuchs

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