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Showing 1-10 of 28 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 105 reviews
VINE VOICEon August 28, 2000
This is a very good book, well-written and delivering a coherent argument. If you want to know what it is about, read the synopsis and the other reviews. If you want to know whether it is worth reading, here is my opinion: yes, but...
The best part of the book, and the most profound, is the epilogue. You have to read the rest of the book to graso the argument in the epilogue. The rest of the book is enjoyable, but it's too bad they saved the punch line for the afterword.
This book is of variable quality, throughout its body. In several places, the authors felt the quotations of the post-modernists stood on their own merits as evidence that there is no there (in the PM attacks on science). When the authors engage in thoughtful analysis, they are very strong. And the epilogue pulls it all together beautifully. Well worth reading.
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on July 30, 2013
It is very "dense". The many footnotes could be well be incorporated into the text, and that would make it easier to read, since some are long enough that go to the next page. Exposes Lacan for what he was: a money hungry charlatan who managed to create a subsect.
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on January 25, 2012
This book is as useful a philosophical tool for those frustrated with the dominance of relativism as anything out there. What makes it particularly appealing is that its arguments are legitimate and not merely derived from a nostalgic love of tradition for the sake of tradition. It also provides a succinct and non academic introduction to what "postmodernism" is in the first place. It makes a thought-provoking case for challenging certain philosophical vogues popular in both academic and common circles.
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on October 27, 2013
I agree with Sokal and Bricmont almost entirely. Their critique of postmodern relativism and all the theory that accompanies it is well taken and well argued.

However, that being said, one of their main criticisms of postmodernists' writing (especially French postmodernists, with the notable exception of Derrida) is that it is incomprehensible, just plain wrong, nonsensical and meaningless (in Wittgenstein's sense - my view, they do not invoke Wittgenstein), leads them to include many pages of excerpts from such writings to illustrate their points. This is exactly what I would love to avoid!! When telling me "X's writings are nonsense, incomprehensible, etc..., do not make me read two to three pages of quotes from X!!! :-) I get their aim, though, it was just excruciating to read the clap trap they criticize.

It might be passe nowadays, as the academic debate over postmodernism seems to have gone a bit by the board, but a good critique of postmodern relativism and the attendant smoke and mirrors of postmodern authors.
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on November 2, 2007
This book will keep you laughing for hours. It’s about The Sokal Hoax, a phony article made up of esoteric scientific jargon applied to social issues through convolutions of logic and obfuscated language. Sokal then infiltrated postmodernist turf when he got his paper published in one of their premier journals, “Social Text: A daring and controversial leader in the field of cultural studies.” The paper was an instant smash throughout postmodern circles, later to win the 1996 Ig Noble Award – more than Sokal could hope for.

Sokal, a professor of physics, canvassed what looks like hundreds of postmodern papers flushed in untreated torrents from academia. By pulling together this nasty set of aromas he creates a bouquet for those he drenches with praise throughout the hoax by applying Lodge’s maxim, “It is impossible to be excessive in flattery of one’s pears.” Like any good snake oil salesman, Sokal simply kludged the language into what postmoderns want to hear most, “that physical reality is at bottom a social and linguistic construct,” he writes. Thus science is mere politics, another Western bias, nothing whatsoever to do with the realities of nature. (Ignoring the curing of small pox, man on the moon, Voyager to Saturn, computers, TVs, cell phones, planes, trains and automobiles.) There is thus no objective truth, allowing postmoderns to tell us what it really is.

At some point Sokal could bare no more praise heaped high, nor references to his “ground-breaking work” among postmodern publications, so he revealed the article for what it was. Not only did the kings and queens have no clothes, but their bodies looked so funny under the optic of Sokal’s glare. They’d been duped and they knew it. Wheels of postmodern correctness squealed into reverse to say they’d always known Sokal was a fake.

Sokal makes postmodernism fun, and shows us there’s a good chance we’ve been misunderstanding these people for these last fifty years – they’re really comedians. And to think we took them seriously. If the public only knew what academic freedom protected at the university at their tax dollar’s expense, they might not be laughing.
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on June 20, 2005
I expected this book to be a bit of a chore to read, but was amply rewarded by the effort. A ripping expose of the postmodernist scam, it reveals the intellectual slapstick of the clowns of academia. That they have fooled so many for so long is a damning testament to the shocking standards of the education system.

If only Carl Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World" were introduced into the curriculum of every high school, we may cure the gullibility of students presented with irrationalist flim-flam in undergraduate courses. They would surely see the nakedness of the emperors for themselves.

This book is valuable as a piece of history. Hopefully, it marks the turning point in the recent fad of promoting nonsense as profundity, and obfuscation as mystery. If we are lucky it will be the broom that will sweep across academia, and consign the rubbish to the same waste bin as conspiracy theories, UFOlogy, New Age crystals, and channelling.
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on January 17, 2016
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on February 10, 2009
In order to understand this very interesting book, you may have to have some generalized knowledge of the vocabulary of advanced mathematics (especially set-theory) and modern paradigms in (Gallic) philosophy. This is a good book that enables all of us to laugh at the French. As Sokal and Bricmont make their commentary on these mostly French philosophers and sociologists, you can them grinding their teeth trying to keep a civil tongue, but we know they want to scream out loud: "They're idiots! Morons!" And sputter into speechlessness, as how people could write such bunk, and be taken seriously by editors, commentators, and readers of the elite ennui.
It great to laugh at the crap spouted by the French, who do their best to "appear" to smart and sophisticated. The French have always aspired to be greatest philosophers and sociologists on the planet for all time. But aspire is not the same as hard work, knowledge, and understanding.
And I swear to God these Frenchies are making up five syllable words to sound as if they are geniuses. Is there any wonder the French haven't created anything original to civilization in 200 years?
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on February 18, 2013
Although this is an important book it is not a very enjoyable one to read for the simple fact that the authors felt compelled to quote at length from some of the most disfigured and meaningless jumbles of words that I have ever seen sewn together in the guise of sentences.

A major portion of the book is given over to reproductions of original 'postmodernist' sources that ramble for pages on end, with trifling comments by the authors on how the different scientific concepts have been misinterpreted or misused. However, the long barrage of academic verbiage is such manifest nonsense to begin with that there is little left for the sagacity of Sokal and Bricmont to say.

There are only so many ways to call a fraud a fraud, so many ways to point to a syntactic confusion of adjectives and say, 'this is gibberish.'

The reason for the extensive quantity of quoted material, the authors explain, is that they do not want to be accused of misrepresenting the sources, or cherry-picking their quotations. This may be an admirable intention but it does not make the situation any less painful for the reader who is forced to slog his way through the sentences.

If a reader is not convinced of the absurdity of the postmodern examples within the first two sentences of a quotation, they probably so completely lack the discriminating facility that another twenty pages will not do them any more good.

Much more instructive were the sections between the criticisms of the individual postmodern authors, that dealt more broadly with the roles of science and reason in the humanities and politics. Despite what other reviewers have said, there is nothing in these parts which does not seem to me to be thoroughly reasonable and correct.

Most incomprehensible is how anyone could have ever taken these postmodernist authors seriously in the first place - how entire segments of the academic world could have so completely taken leave of their senses as to give even one of these imposters an academic post - let alone legions of them spanning several generations.

By sheer chance, I recently ran into this comment by Jonathan Swift which seems to have some bearing on the situation:

"There are certain common Privileges of a Writer,
the Benefit whereof, I hope, there will be no Reason to doubt;
Particularly, that where I am not understood, it shall be concluded,
that something very useful and profound is coucht underneath." (1704)
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on August 9, 2012
It used to be that thinkers thought precisely and correctly but recently this mode of thought has come under attack by self-appointed critics of modern society. Alan Sokal and Jean Brimont have taken a long overdue stand against these pseudo intellectuals.

The twentieth century has seen verbiage establish itself within academia. Just think of Martin Heidegger. Certainly there have always been charlatans and snake oil salesmen but their influence was occasional and never permanent. Something changed in the late 19th century; perhaps it began with Hegel. Perhaps it started as a reaction to Descartes and Newton. Perhaps it's a side effect of the explosion of knowledge--one man can no longer understand everything that is known about the world. We must specialize.

In any case, the liberal arts have produced personalities, the Post Modernists, jealous of the success of physics and other sciences, the study of which these people have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue. Yet they want the authority accompanying the mathematical certainty and precision of the sciences. Their solution is to pepper their papers and books with the vocabulary and ideas of mathematics and physics.

Sokal and Brimont have read and analyzed a representative selection of the works of Post Modernism. Their conclusion is that every reference they found to mathematical or physical concepts is either gratuitous or out-of-context. In other words, the papers make no sense because their conclusions depend on incorrect arguments.

Sokal and Brimont don't merely destroy the Post Modernist study of how we know what we know (epistemology) they also offer their view on the topic. It is possible for us to know something of the world and of how it works, in fact we do know quite a lot. The modern world with its computers, airplanes, communications satellites makes this self-evident. We don't know everything but in the face of all we've accomplished it's nonsense to say, as the Post Modernists do, that knowledge is relative and unstable and it's outright malicious for post-modernists to use the language of science to mount this unsubstantiated attacks.

It's fashionable but as the authors demonstrate, it is nonsense.

Vincent Poirier, Montreal
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