Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science

Sokal, Alan; Bricmont, Jean
Year Published:  1998   First Published:  1997
ISBN:  ISBN 0-312-20407-8
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX7888

The authors criticize postmodernism in academia for its misuses of scientific and mathematical concepts in postmodern writing. Fashionable Nonsense examines two related topics: (1) The incompetent and pretentious usage of scientific concepts by a small group of influential philosophers and intellectuals; (2) the problems of cognitive relativism, the idea that "modern science is nothing more than a 'myth', a 'narration' or a 'social construction' among many others". 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," and 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.
Published in French as Impostures Intellectuelles and in the United Kingdom as Intellectual Impostures.

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