Thursday, July 13, 2006

It Should Go Without Saying, But It Needs Be Said

Ten years have passed since New York University physicist Alan Sokal famously hoaxed North America’s leading academic journal on cultural studies, Social Text, with a dense and deliberately ridiculous paper titled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”.

Sokal’s essay was all properly tarted up in the typically incomprehensible and impenetrable jargon of the self-proclaimed academic left, so the journal’s editors published it. They did so even though, or perhaps because, Sokal purported to make the case, more or less, that the real world doesn’t even exist.

The uproar Sokal set off was all very amusing, but, sadly, the absurd and ultimately reactionary forms of postmodernism and relativism that Sokal so effectively hoaxed and exposed in 1996 remain deeply entrenched in the humanities, in literary theory, and, perhaps most noticeably, in the ideas of certain sections of the Euro-American “left” elites. . .

That's from my wee review of Why Truth Matters by Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom (Continuum Books, 196 pp, $30.95, hardcover), a copy of which I extorted from my comrade Will, who sent it all the way from in Edinburgh. Benson and Stangroom run this show.

Related matters are here and here, but if it's an argument you want, there's a ringside seat for Norm and Nick in a scrap with a couple of deadend neo-cons waiting for you right here.


Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Ew. A link to FrontPageMagazine without a warning?

12:53 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

DPU: You're quite right. I am chastened, and sorry. I should have provided air sickness bags just for the page loading.

But hilarious the way the thing just degenerates, and Norm and Nick just end up saying to hell with it. . .

7:25 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

They do an excellent job of both explaining their politics and patiently repeating themselves and patiently repeating themselves. But what were they thinking when agreeing to an interview with that whackjob?

9:25 AM  
Blogger tglavin said...

"But what were they thinking when agreeing to an interview with that whackjob?"

Good question.

I expect that after making so much of insisting on the notion that we should be keeping lines of communication open etc. it would have been bad form to say no. But that's a guess.

Also, I think it was useful to the purpose of dispelling some rude propaganda that Eustonians are neoconservatives in leftist clothing. Say what you will about the manifesto and its principal authors, what cannot be said is that there is anything "right wing" about the effort.


10:28 AM  
Blogger Ophelia Benson said...

I think they may also just not have been all that familiar with Front Page - it's not really a Hot Item in the UK (which is nice for the UK). I was tempted to rebuke them for not consulting me before accepting the invitation. (I would have advised against not on grounds that FP is too conservative but on grounds that they fight dirty there - like the time they deleted most of Michael Bérubé's replies and then complained that he kept not answering their questions!)

8:32 AM  
Blogger tglavin said...

Nice to hear from you Ophelia.

Great book, by the way.



3:16 PM  
Blogger Ophelia Benson said...

Thanks, TG - and thanks for the review!

11:28 AM  

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