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Le pauvre Sokal

John Sturrock: The Social Text Hoax, 16 July 1998

Intellectual Impostures 
by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont.
Profile, 274 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 1 86197 074 9
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... has it in for the French thinkers who have come among us since the late Sixties, bearing what Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont would like to see ostracised as fatuous, if not actually nonsensical ideas.The authors are both professors of physics, Sokal in New York, Bricmont in Belgium, and it’s as hard scientists that ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: Sokal 2.0, 25 October 2018

... journal, increasingly common in academia, which will publish work if you give it money; two, as Alan Sokal, the perpetrator of the original postmodernism-trashing hoax, pointed out, some of the penis text – despite its authors’ best efforts – actually made sense.* For their expanded effort at subversion, targeting the most highly regarded serious ...

What’s in the bottle?

Donald MacKenzie: The Science Wars Revisited, 9 May 2002

The One Culture? A Conversation about Science 
edited by Jay Labinger and Harry Collins.
Chicago, 329 pp., £41, August 2001, 0 226 46722 8
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... the ‘science wars’ were well underway by 1996, they came to wider attention in that year when Alan Sokal succeeded in publishing his brilliant pastiche in Social Text. Sokal’s hoax implicitly condemned – and a fair number of further books and articles raged against, often, alas, without ...

John Sturrock

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 21 September 2017

... the paper’s readers, and elicited the largest number of indignant letters, was written by John. Alan Sokal, a professor of mathematics at UCL and physics at NYU, had gone into battle against the postmodern theorists whom he accused – I’m simplifying but not greatly – of having no understanding of the concepts they borrowed from science, and no ...

Nutty Professors

Hal Foster: ‘Lingua Franca’, 8 May 2003

Quick Studies: The Best of ‘Lingua Franca’ 
edited by Alexander Star.
Farrar, Straus, 514 pp., $18, September 2002, 0 374 52863 2
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... of psychoanalysis by Frederick Crews). But the real killer is the first article, which is by Alan Sokal, the physicist who wrote a parody of ‘Postmodern science studies’ entitled ‘Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity’, which the unsuspecting editors of the cultural studies journal Social Text ...

Heat Death

Simon Schaffer: Entropists v. Energeticists, 13 April 2000

Ludwig Boltzmann: The Man who Trusted Atoms 
by Carlo Cercignani.
Oxford, 329 pp., £29.50, September 1998, 0 19 850154 4
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... critics of all forms of Post-Modernism, relativism and populism, then with the notorious hoaxer Alan Sokal, he did so from the first as a warrior in Boltzmann’s image, fiercely opposed to ‘serious confusions that are found in the literature on irreversibility, chaos or time’. Prigogine was cast as Ostwald in a strange recurrence of the scientific ...

Where do we touch down?

Jeremy Harding: Bruno Latour’s Habitat, 15 December 2022

On the Emergence of an Ecological Class: A Memo 
by Bruno Latour and Nikolaj Schultz, translated by Julie Rose.
Polity, 80 pp., £9.99, November 2022, 978 1 5095 5506 2
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After Lockdown: A Metamorphosis 
by Bruno Latour, translated by Julie Rose.
Polity, 180 pp., £14.99, September 2021, 978 1 5095 5002 9
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... Climate change denial prepared the ground for this.Not everyone found Latour convincing. For Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont in Impostures intellectuelles (1997), he was merely a dabbler in the sciences. In Science of Science and Reflexivity (2001), Pierre Bourdieu – his most dedicated critic – scolded him for finding ideas more interesting than ...

Taking Bad Arguments Seriously

Ian Hacking, 21 August 1997

... construction’ work like cancerous cells: once seeded, they replicate out of hand. Consider Alan Sokal’s hoax. In May 1996, Sokal, a physicist at New York University, published a learned pastiche in a special issue of Social Text, a more or less literary journal. Believing that some fashionable intellectuals ...

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