Tag Archives: Alan Sokal

It Was Just Blather

In the Critical Theory Archives at UC-Irvine, deep in a file of the Stanley Fish Papers, is a statement on Duke University letterhead by Fish when he was Executive Director of Duke University Press. The statement isn’t dated, but we can assign it to the year 1996, appearing as it does in response to the infamous Sokal Hoax.
Probably most Minding the Campus readers recall the episode. Alan Sokal, a physicist at NYU, objected to theoretical and postmodern critiques of science coming out of the humanities (“science studies”), and he wanted to test the actual scientific and mathematical knowledge of the critics. He submitted a paper to the editors of Social Text with the title “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” and he filled it with tendentious assertions such as:

The content and methodology of postmodern science thus provide powerful intellectual support for the progressive political project, understood in its broadest sense: the transgressing of boundaries, the breaking down of barriers, the radical democratization of all aspects of social, economic, political, and cultural life.

Continue reading It Was Just Blather