In A Nice Derangement of Epistemes by John H. Zammito, he attempts to "deflate" certain "extravagant gestures in philosophy of language" as he believes they "threaten to undermine indispensable canons of empirical inquiry". He lists four theses one of which is that of Jacques Derrida, one of the major figures of post-modernism.

Does this work represent a consensus among philosophers of science or represent a movement, and if so, can that movement be considered an effort to disentangle post-modernism from post-positivism?

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    It represents a consensus among analytic philosophers of science, those few that even give Derrida the light of day. But there is no need for an effort to disentangle continental post-structuralism from analytic post-positivism since they were never entangled to begin with. Quite the contrary, it is often reported as surprising how many parallels the developments in both traditions showed in the 20th century (e.g. Derrida and Davidson), despite their almost complete lack of communication.
    – Conifold
    Nov 15, 2019 at 1:53
  • Thanks! I'll be less clueless about the divide over the Pond once I finish Feist's volume on Husserl and Science. Derrida and Davidson... metaphysical isomorphisms??? Davidson is somewhere in one of these queues...
    – J D
    Nov 15, 2019 at 17:30
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    I don’t see Derrida as any kind of threat to science. I was totally turned off by such figures as Lacan, who seemed.a fraud to me, and Derrida too at first. Derrida is just recycling something rather ancient. The “ danger” to science comes from the “know-nothings” who pretend to know nothing in order to hide from the world, but this is just a passing phase. We’ve had know-nothings before, and it passed. Science won’t be gone until the material conditions for science collapse.
    – Gordon
    Nov 15, 2019 at 17:31
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    Wheeler is an analytic philosopher with interest in continental authors, see his Davidson’s Affinities to Derrida and book Deconstruction as Analytic Philosophy.
    – Conifold
    Nov 16, 2019 at 0:53

1 Answer 1


Have a look at Satya P. Mohanty’s Literary Theory and the Claims of History: Postmodernism, Objectivity, Multicultural Politics, in particular Chapter 6, entitled, "On Situating Objective Knowlwdge," where he discusses the de facto relationship between post modernist/post structuralist theoreticians' (eg Derrida) and the anglo post positive/anti empiricist-cum-pragmatist philosopher's (Quine, Goodman, Sellars, Kuhn, Davidson, Rorty) various critiques of traditional empiricism/positivism. This book can in part and to some extent be characterized as purporting to outline and justify the de facto "entanglement" of post-positivism and post-modernism.

The referenced cadre of philosophers do represent a “movement” of sorts [over and above their being post-positivists], particularly as their ideas have been unified and mobilized by Richard Rorty's brand of post-modernism; a popularized neo-pragmatist interpretation of their ideas [see, inter alia, his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and his four volumes of essays].

The project of Zammito’s book, on the other hand, was to properly contextualize the ideas of these philosophers. To address what he called the:

Three hyperbolic dogmas of antiempiricism [which have] dominated 'theory' over the past fifty years of post-positivist thought: theory-ladenness, underdetermination and incommensurability. None is justified in the radical form which alone empowers the extravagances of postmodernism. (italics mine.)

His intent was to deflate these ideas, particularly in the philosophy of science/knowledge as inflated by the "radical theorists" and sociologists of science, eg. Collins, Bloor, Woolgar, Latour, the feminist epistemologists, etc., and locate them in their proper context. Which project is exemplified by the title of his concluding chapter of his book: “The Hyperbolic Derangement of Epistemes," which concludes with the admontion that:

There has been a derangment of epistemes. Philosophy of Science pursued "semantic ascent" [the linguistic turn of the 20th century] into a philosophy of language so "holistic" as to deny determinate purchase on the world of which we speak....It is time for a hard reckoning for, for a rigorous deflation.

Zammito's book warned us that the radical trends which he perceived in epistemology [which can essentially also be represented by the above referenced "entanglment"] "empower the extravagances of postmodernism," and threaten to plunge us into the "abîmé [abyss] of an almost absolute skepticism."

So, yes, while, aside from as described in Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt's Higher Superstition, and and the events surrounding the Sokal Hoax/Affair, I am aware of no such organized consensus/movement among philosophers of science, Zammito's book can be characterized as "an effort to disentangle post-modernism from post-positivism," particularly in the realm of the social sciences.

An effort which has clearly foundered. The ideas that in 2004 he found pernicious to [the philosophy of] science, coupled with a criteria-less inclusive pluralism, have seeped into the culture and folk epistemology to the extent that the OED named "post-truth" their word of the year in 2016, a dozen years after Zammito's book was published.

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