post modernism and the left 
Author Message
 post modernism and the left

Hi Brian,

 this might be of interest

-- Bill Kerr

The Sokal Hoax : The Sham That Shook the Academyby The Editors of Lingua
Franca (Editor), Lingua Franca (Editor)

http://www.*-*-*.com/
90-8861557

reader review ---

Sokal himself has no interest in the cultural right wing. He is a Marxist
who  worked in Nicaragua to support the Sandinistas. Sokal argues that
politics and  social theory are irrelevant to the substantive content of
subjects such as  physics, chemistry, or mathematics. He makes a case
against confusing social  theory with natural science, and he asserts that
counterfactual claims have no  place in the refereed journals of serious
research fields.

reader review --

Barbara Epstein's essay on "Postmodernism and the Left" is worth the price
of  the book.

Postmodernism and the Left

Barbara Epstein

< http://www.*-*-*.com/ ~newpol/issue22/epstei22.htm>
http://www.*-*-*.com/ ~newpol/issue22/epstei22.htm
One conclusion not to draw, he wrote, is that postmodernists can't
recognize an unintelligible argument when they see one.
   When Sokal said his essay was nonsense, most reporters instantly
followed    his lead. After all, he should know, right? But we thought
Sokal had a real    argument, and we still do. Allow me to quote Paul
Horgan, senior writer at    Scientific American, summarizing in the July 16
New York Times:    Sokal, Horgan says, "proposed that superstring theory
might help liberate    science from dependence upon the concept of
objective truth.'" Prof. Sokal    later announced that the article had been
a hoax, intended to expose the    hollowness of postmodernism. In fact,
however, superstring theory is exactly    the kind of science that subverts
conventional notions of truth.(p.58)       that quote goes against the main
grain of the Epstein    article but I think I recall you saying something
similar once in    comp.lang.logo   --  Bill



Fri, 14 May 2004 00:29:09 GMT  
 post modernism and the left

Quote:

>Sokal, Horgan says, "proposed that superstring theory
>might help liberate    science from dependence upon the concept of
>objective truth.'" Prof. Sokal    later announced that the article had been
>a hoax, intended to expose the    hollowness of postmodernism. In fact,
>however, superstring theory is exactly    the kind of science that subverts
>conventional notions of truth.(p.58)       that quote goes against the main
>grain of the Epstein    article but I think I recall you saying something
>similar once in    comp.lang.logo   --  Bill

I don't remember the context, but indeed I might have said it.

There's a way of putting it that avoids some of the "no objective truth" heat:

There are at least two ways of looking at any theory, scientific or otherwise:
(1) predictive power, (2) explanatory power.  #1 is closer to being
"objective," although even here it pays to look carefully at the layers of
interpretation between the *actual* observation (an electric current in some
metering device, for example) and the inferred phenomenon (electrons bouncing
off atoms, or whatever).  Historically, scientific theories have claimed to
have both #1 and #2, and therefore there's been a generally accepted (implicit)
meta-claim that #1 and #2 go together.  There have been suspect social-science
theories that have #2 but not #1; both Freud and Marx, for example, are often
accused of this.  But today we have theories in physics that have #1 *without*
having #2, most notably quantum theory and its children (including superstring
theory).  The more you read about quantum theory, the *less* you feel as if
you understand the way the world works!  But it's pretty good at prediction.

So the "no objective truth" claim can be understood as "however much #1 your
theory might have, it can't achieve #2 without recourse to non-objective
metaphors and the like."  (The "string" half of the name "superstring" is
an attempt at such a metaphor.)  A naive epistemology of science focuses all
its attention on #1, taking the more complicated #2 at face value and trying
to borrow #1's partial objectivity for it.



Sun, 16 May 2004 01:17:37 GMT  
 post modernism and the left


Quote:

> >Sokal, Horgan says, "proposed that superstring theory
> >might help liberate    science from dependence upon the concept of
> >objective truth.'" Prof. Sokal    later announced that the article had
been
> >a hoax, intended to expose the    hollowness of postmodernism. In fact,
> >however, superstring theory is exactly    the kind of science that
subverts
> >conventional notions of truth.(p.58)       that quote goes against the
main
> >grain of the Epstein    article but I think I recall you saying something
> >similar once in    comp.lang.logo   --  Bill

> I don't remember the context, but indeed I might have said it.

> There's a way of putting it that avoids some of the "no objective truth"
heat:

> There are at least two ways of looking at any theory, scientific or
otherwise:
> (1) predictive power, (2) explanatory power.  #1 is closer to being
> "objective," although even here it pays to look carefully at the layers of
> interpretation between the *actual* observation (an electric current in
some
> metering device, for example) and the inferred phenomenon (electrons
bouncing
> off atoms, or whatever).  Historically, scientific theories have claimed
to
> have both #1 and #2, and therefore there's been a generally accepted
(implicit)
> meta-claim that #1 and #2 go together.  There have been suspect
social-science
> theories that have #2 but not #1; both Freud and Marx, for example, are
often
> accused of this.  But today we have theories in physics that have #1
*without*
> having #2, most notably quantum theory and its children (including
superstring
> theory).  The more you read about quantum theory, the *less* you feel as
if
> you understand the way the world works!  But it's pretty good at
prediction.

> So the "no objective truth" claim can be understood as "however much #1
your
> theory might have, it can't achieve #2 without recourse to non-objective
> metaphors and the like."  (The "string" half of the name "superstring" is
> an attempt at such a metaphor.)  A naive epistemology of science focuses
all
> its attention on #1, taking the more complicated #2 at face value and
trying
> to borrow #1's partial objectivity for it.

thanks, have to think about what you've said
- Bill


Sun, 16 May 2004 02:33:19 GMT  
 
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