Village Voice reviews Sokal-Bricmont

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Sun Dec 6 09:53:24 PST 1998

Dear Frances,

I have not read Pickering or Latour or or Longino or Harding (well not Harding in a very long time).

To your list of distinguished critical scholars of science, I would include Donald A MacKenzie--esp. Knowing Machines. You recommended an ed book in which MacKenzie's earlier study of statistics was criticized. Would you kindly remind me of ed. and title of that book?

What I meant to call attention to is not critical, empirical studies of science or technology as such but the philosophical irrationalist or idealist reaction against science. What I am suggesting is that those doing the former kind of work may find themselves being cited, used and anthologized by philosophical irrationalists. In his Marxism and Hegel and in particular the chapter "From Bergson to Lukacs" Lucio Colletti, a leading member of Italian scientific communist school of Della Volpe, has studied this tradition as it developed from German Romanticism to Croce and Bergson to Lukacs under the influence of Rickert and Simmel and then to Martin Heidegger, his student Herbert Marcuse and Adorno and Horkheimer as well (though Adorno's emphasis on the preponderance of objectivity in Negative Dialectics is said to exempt him from this critique according to Perry Anderson and Martin Jay).

(Croce is an early Hegelian Marxist whose developing critique of positivism became increasingly reactionary and was subjected to counter critique by Antonio Gramsci--I have not read Croce's own work, including Historical Materialism and the Economics of Karl Marx; Colletti argues that Jacobi had great effect on him.)

Colletti demonstrates successfully (in my opinion) how this tradition, aiming at the destruction of the Intellect, attempts to supplant the critique of a determinate form of society by developing a critique of science itself as the product of the intellect, scientific conceptualization, reification, putative myths for the sole purposes of technical control and (in Heidegger's language) projection. I am not going to develop the argument here; it is already terribly condensed in the form Colletti presents it. I find this philosophical irrationalism quite in vogue; people really *hate* Sokal--I really had in mind my fellow graduate students.

(I would also like to read Tom Rockmore Irrationalism: Lukacs and the Marxist View of Reason, though Colletti argues that the dialectial reason Lukacs wants to against irrationalism is already infected with mysticisim, but Rockmore's study is said to be a critical one)

In terms of the distinction between science and technology, I would like to look at what Stanley Wolpert says about it in his book What is Unnatural About Science.

But at this point, I cannot go to far into the field. As I have already a lot of Stephen Rose's book, I look forward to discussing that with you. I am sending a friend's fax number to you. Any chance you can send it directly to the list? I will happily give up my two more posts for today.

Yours, Rakesh .

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