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Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture (edition 2010)

by Alan Sokal

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1096110,750 (4)2
Member:psiloiordinary
Title:Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture
Authors:Alan Sokal
Info:OUP Oxford (2010), Paperback, 488 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Popular science

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Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture by Alan Sokal

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Much more than I expected in more ways than one.

I expected the text of the Sokal Hoax exposing anti-reality post modernism but the extensive footnotes where a bonus.

Then there was plenty of food for thought exploring more examples that started from merely doubting the existence of a real world and the equality of all points of view when it comes to matters of fact but progressed into the direct promotion of nonsense beliefs at the expense of science and to the detriment of innocents.

I was particularly dismayed to spot yet another ocean of alternative silliness lapping at the shores of rationality in the form of Rogerian nursing.

Finally I was delighted to find a perspective on the Politics of the Left at challenged my previous views and seems to make good sense. With a bit of luck this might even lead me to changing my mind about some things, for good, evidence based reasons of course. ( )
  psiloiordinary | Jan 27, 2013 |
A compilation of papers by Sokal about Science, Philosophy of Science, Culture, and Politics, including an annotated reprint of his famous 1996 Social Text hoax. Discussing issues related to postmodernism and science studies, phylosophy of sciences, and religion, this collection should be read by everyone woried about the dire consequences of sloppy reasoning in academia and in everyday life. ( )
  FPdC | May 24, 2010 |
The physicist who wrote the notorious 1996 "transformative hermeneutics" paper satirizing postmodernist sophists goes on to give these Enlightenment-rejecting "sociologists of science" a well-deserved further bashing. He somewhat surprisingly finds a link between postmodernism and pseudoscience and classifies organized religions as pseudosciences. He also essays religion's massive delusionality, its implications for politics, and the danger it poses for civilizational survival.
  fpagan | Mar 28, 2009 |
Sokal's original hoax was hilarious, and his analysis of the french intellectual impostors even more so.

He now puts forward almost all organized religion as pseudo-science. I don't find it particularly offensive, but a bit sad that he does not seem to recognize that there are more ways than one to state, say or proclaim a message. According to Sokal, a scientific mindset almost necessarily leads to atheism. Given that Sokal has such a prominent place in the criticism of some very shoddy thinking that has been presented as serious science, I find it unfortunate that he ties this position to a pretty naive form of atheism. ( )
  sameos | Mar 16, 2009 |
Postmodernism Turned Upside Down

I remember vaguely in my pre-academic days about this guy who wrote a spoof on postmodernism which was published by a journal. It hit the ivory tower like an earthquake and the so-called elitists were never the same after it. It was the moment we entered the post-postmodern age.

That man was Alan Sokal, NYU physicist, and his book "Beyond The Hoax" is a behind the scenes look at the article that rocked the Annales School of philosophy. Since I had never read the original article, I almost had to read the first section twice, first the article on its own, then going back to read Sokal's annotations. It is really quite remarkable what he got away with.

The primary motivations behind Sokal's philosophical critiques against postmodernism are simple: postmodernism was an elitist philosophy which undermined the shared commitment to the struggle for social justice. Throughout the book, you do get the sense of Sokal's own secular humanist convictions, progressivism without the pretension and condescension.

Perhaps even better are the series of essays he includes after his article hoax. In his polemic against the radical-social-constructivist philosophizing in "Science Studies," Sokal argues that it became an all-purpose tool with which to discredit any emperical study whose conclusions one dislikes. Like all hypocrites, the radical postmodernists are guilty of selectivity and reductionism that they so boldly proclaim they are against. The most fascinating of the essays though is "Pseudoscience and Postmodernism," where Sokal shows how paradoxically the mystical and the skeptical work to reinforce each other. Perhaps less well-thought out however is his essay "Religion, Politics, and Survival" where Sokal is clearly out of his depth when discussing topics related to Islam.

Overall, I found this to be one of the best philosophical books I've ever read. Sokal is straight-forward, exploratory, and sufficiently intriguing to read. I recommend this to anyone who wants an intellectual response to postmodernism. ( )
  bruchu | Feb 24, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199239207, Hardcover)

When physicist Alan Sokal revealed that his 1996 article, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," published in Social Text, was a hoax, the ensuing scandal made the front page of the New York Times and caused an uproar among the post-modernists he had so hilariously--and convincingly--parodied.
Now, in Beyond the Hoax, Sokal revisits this remarkable chapter in our intellectual history to illuminate issues that are with us even more pressingly today than they were a decade ago. Sokal's main argument, then and now, is for the centrality of evidence in all matters of public debate. The original article, (included in the book, with new explanatory footnotes), exposed the faulty thinking and outright nonsense of the postmodernist critique of science, which asserts that facts, truth, evidence, even reality itself are all merely social constructs. Today, right wing politicians and industry executives are happily manipulating these basic tenents of postmodernism to obscure the scientific consensus on global warming, biological evolution, second-hand smoke, and a host of other issues. Indeed, Sokal shows that academic leftists have unwittingly abetted right wing ideologies by wrapping themselves in a relativistic fog where any belief is as valid as any other because all claims to truth must be regarded as equally suspect. Sokal's goal, throughout the book, is to expose the dangers in such thinking and to defend a scientific worldview based on respect for evidence, logic, and reasoned argument over wishful thinking, superstition, and demagoguery of any kind.
Written with rare lucidity, a lively wit, and a keen appreciation of the real-world consequences of sloppy thinking, Beyond the Hoax is essential reading for anyone concerned with the state of American culture today.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Alan Sokal's famous 1996 hoax triggered fierce debate and became front-page news around the world: an article he had published in the cultural-studies journal Social Text was revealed by Sokal himself to be a cunningly worded parody, publicly exposing the meaningless jargon of the extreme postmodernist critique of science. In Beyond the Hoax, Sokal takes on a new and more dangerous set of targets: pseudoscience, religion, and misinformation in public life."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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