David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Res Publica 5 (1):1-20 (1999)
Macaulay was wrong: The British public in one of its periodic fits of morality may be a ridiculous spectacle but it has at least one rival in the reaction we have recently witnessed to ‘cultural relativism’, ‘postmodernism’, and suchlike phenomena. One good illustration of the point is the argument of Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont's Intellectual Impostures (1998: London, Profile Books). Sokal and Bricmont spend the greater part of their time holding various postmodernist writers up to ridicule, and it would be a waste of time to defend it against them. However, their most seriously argued chapter (chapter four) is a critique, not of postmodernism, but of epistemic relativism in the philosophy of science, as mainly exemplified by the work of Popper, Feyerabend, and Kuhn, and it is important to answer the case they make. There are many reasons for finding that case unconvincing. For example: (i) Sokal and Bricmont repeatedly imply that epistemic relativism is counter-intuitive. Against them it can be objected that some quite ordinary proposition can be both true and, at the same time, only true for beings with certain types of visual apparatus or with a certain cultural history. Nor are they right in claiming that all scientists find epistemic relativism implausible. Some do, but Chomsky doesn't. Neither does Stephen Hawking; (ii) Sokal and Bricmont suppose that there is a single, uniquely correct description of the universe ‘out there’ waiting to be discovered, but all the evidence we have suggests the contrary; (iii) it is not the case that epistemic relativism entails that any description is just as good as any other, so they are wrong to insist that it must endorse all manner of silly superstition; (iv) Sokal and Bricmont frequently insist that “the scientific method is not radically different from the rational attitude in everyday life or in other domains of human knowledge” but this glosses over great differences between the procedures appropriate to different areas of inquiry – science on the one hand, history and/or psychoanalysis on the other.
|Keywords||Sokal Bricmont Haworth science philosophy of science relativism epistemic relativism Intellectual Impostures two cultures|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Alan Sokal & Jean Bricmont, Sokal and Bricmont: Is This the Beginning of the End of the Dark Ages in the Humanities?
Howard Sankey (2012). Scepticism, Relativism and the Argument From the Criterion. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (1):182-190.
Alan D. Sokal & J. Bricmont (1999). Book Review: Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Literature 23 (1).
Jean-Philippe Bouilloud (2003). The Reception of the Sokal Affair in France—"Pomo" Hunting or Intellectual Mccarthyism?: A Propos of Impostures Intellectuelles by A. Sokal and J. Bricmont. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 33 (1):122-137.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads15 ( #232,907 of 1,792,259 )
Recent downloads (6 months)2 ( #345,624 of 1,792,259 )
How can I increase my downloads?