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Is Sokal & Bricmont's lambasting of Post-Modern Intellectuals proof of the vacuity of Post-Modernism?

Does this offer us a hope at proving that some schools of Philosophy can be proven to be pure Sophistry?

  • I would have thought history is a secure proof of the sophistry of some schools. I hesitate to mention names but it seems to me that sophistry has become more or less the rule in modern philosophy. Perhaps I could mention the 'Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics' because it is a classic of the genre. But to be fair there is good and bad sophistry. – PeterJ Nov 20 '17 at 12:49
  • I refuse to leave the tyranny of the modern, in other words I've reached the limit of the amount foolishness I can tolerate. – Gordon Nov 21 '17 at 18:21
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Much of philosophy is true but vacuous: dualism vs monism, various theories of mind, etc. They are interesting, but ultimately don't have real bearing on life. Proving something does not prove a workable way of addressing the world does not make it untrue or sophistical. Nor does it mean that older solutions might not in some way be better than ones that are more correct.

It would be difficult if not impossible to live your life thinking of everything in a way that takes relativity and quantum dynamics seriously at every moment. But they are real.

In my interpretation, the problem we seem to be having with postmodernism is in wishing it had more significance and guiding value than it really can provide. We marry it to other objections to modernism and logical positivism and claim it vindicates or supports them them.

But it did not provide those, other forms of sophistry did. We mix up together the effects of having too much information in our culture for people to digest, the war between science and religion that we created and all of the sophistical dancing it has spun into our worldview, our own conflicting history of Christian morality promulgated through extremely anti-Christian execution, and postmodernist awareness of social reality. And we pretend this holds together as a piece and that it proceeds primarily from its latest contributor.

At the same time in terms of really providing a better solution for the problems it addresses, one needs to do so by taking it seriously, if only as an adversary. I cannot speak directly to Sokal & Bridgemont, but most of those who object to it fail to do so.

If you want to criticize postmodernism from any point other than from inside itself, you are not going to manage this by looking at its effects, only its causes. You need to provide the kind of solution for realistically describing our own process of definition and reasoning that Wittgenstein and Quine finally gave up on.

We have no problem identifying and addressing sophistry, throughout the history of philosophy. This is why we name that subject after the given group of people against whom our leading lights of ancient philosophy stood in the west, the professional sophists. Had they not won, we would not idolize them.

  • You write: " You need to provide the kind of solution for realistically describing our own process of definition and reasoning that Wittgenstein and Quine finally gave up on." – Gino L. Jan 1 '18 at 14:36
  • I would argue that there is some tongue in cheek in Plato and some awareness of the Sophistry of the professed Philosopher, the aporia and process of discovery is auto-critical. In actuality, I believe your quote describes "Paralysis by Analysis". I think the ultimate prescriptive is usually given in the way a descriptive claim is framed. Every descriptive claim, insofar as we are embodied and members of communities, are prescriptive. Quine was adamantly against quantifying into Modal contexts, which seems so intuitive that it calls his Epistemology and Metaphysics into question. – Gino L. Jan 1 '18 at 14:49
  • @GinoL. No modernism requires an answer to that question. If it is possible, just give it in a form that withstands their arguments. If not, postmodernism is right, even if it is useless. Quine is notoriously quirky, and I don't care -- first of all, there are two names here, so one of them could fail completely and leave the structure standing, second, tiny idiosyncracies do not undermine the overall argument unless there is some kind of explicit dependency on the nonsense, and ultimately there isn't. – jobermark Jan 3 '18 at 18:53
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"Lambasting" is not a proof. English editors obviously have been unwilling to translate French rebukes to S&B's rhetoric. The case is open and one should hear both sides, even if one of them speaks mostly a foreign language.

Yves Jeanneret, L’affaire Sokal ou la querelle des impostures (Paris, PUF, 1998, 274 p.) is abook length "lambasting" of Sokal & Bricmont written soon after their bestseller. For a few quotes there's a good review. Also Baudouin Jurdant edited Impostures scientifiques, Les malentendus de l'Affaire Sokal (Paris: La Découverte, 1998).

Sorry, this is not a proof and so there si no hope.

  • I would have thought history is a secure proof of the sophistry of some schools. I hesitate to mention names but it seems to me that sophistry has become more or less the rule in modern philosophy. Perhaps I'll mention the 'Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics' because it is a classic of the genre. – PeterJ Nov 20 '17 at 12:48
  • The answer by sand1 is a concise and well formed rebuke that certainly advances the dialogue in a meaningful way. I will remove lambasting from the title, but I will search for a translation of this text. Thank you! – Gino L. Nov 20 '17 at 15:37

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