"Fashionable Nonsense"

Dennis R Redmond dredmond at OREGON.UOREGON.EDU
Tue Dec 1 15:33:12 PST 1998

On Tue, 1 Dec 1998, Ingrid Multhopp wrote:

> pomo critics have had many valid points to make, but I still don't see
> why you have to get your knickers in such a twist over Bricmont's and
> Sokol's book, which as far as I can see simply seeks to chastise the
> excesses of a field that regularly couches its supposedly explosive
> social critiques in bad scientific metaphors and obscurantist jargon.

But what's the evidence for this? Can you point out passages in Foucault's "The Order of Things", or Derrida's "On Grammatology" or Lacan's "Ecrits" (not a book, but selected lectures) which are jargonistic hokum? Critique isn't simply about disagreeing with other thinkers, it's using their own insights to further the critical impulses buried in their own works. Bricmont & Sokal just don't do this, their attitude is, "These folks know nothing about the sciences" and basically slam the post-structuralists for not being MIT logicians. That's about as fair as someone claiming that quantum mechanics is hokus pocus because quarks are classified by bubble-gum style flavors and are therefore part of Wrigley's Worldwide Consumer Capitalist Brain Control Conspiracy. Sure, quarks have *something* to do with consumer capitalism, but no aspect of knowledge is immediately or instantaneously related to any other, rather you have to seek out the mediations which do this, a la Stephen Jay Gould's wonderful essays, which regularly talk about how the history of science interacts with scientific histories of nature.

-- Dennis

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