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Personal Recommendations

This is a space for books that I would like to recommend but which don't necessarily belong in The Classics Page Bookstore. These books are not necessarily related to Classics, although many are in a tangential way. Please feel free to e-mail me with comments or recommendations of your own.

A Few Good Books

Fashionable Nonsense : Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science, by Alan D. Sokal, Jean Bricmont
Hardcover - 272 pages (November 1998) St Martins Pr

This book, appearing first in France as Impostures Intellectual and then in Britain as Intellectual Impostures, caused a firestorm of debate upon first publication. It grew out of a joke that Sokal played on a fashionable American journal of the social sciences. Basically, he collected quotes from various "intellectuals" that, as a scientest, he felt were nonsense. He then strung them out, put in a little verbal "glue" to hold the article together, and submitted it in all seriousness. Amazingly, the article was accepted and published in a special edition of the journal. At this point Sokal revealed the satiric nature of the article, and the debate began. Impostures Intellectual was written because Sokal had gathered too many quotes for just one journal article. Here, however, he undertakes to explicate his specific criticisms. Sokal and Bricmont have been widely hailed and widely vilified for this book. A few fed-up scholars in the humanities and quite a number of scholars in the natural sciences have proclaimed their thanks that someone finally had the courage to stand up and say the emporer has no clotes. Others have said that Sokal simply quotes passages from authors he does not understand, tells how he cannot understand these passages, and then attacks the authors because he does not understand. In other words, the problem is not in the authors that Sokal criticises but in his failure to apprehend them properly. Having read the book, I can tell you that Sokal does much more than this. He shows how specific scientific concepts are misused. Whether this is enough to discredit the philosophical arguments of those in the social sciences whom Sokal and Bricmont attack is up to the reader. This book is not yet available in the States but soon will be, and you can pre-order a copy here. Is Sokal a long-needed voice of reason, or, as Jacques Derrida called him (in response to the French publication of this book) in Le Monde, "le pauvre Sokal"? You decide. Click on the book to order a copy.

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