Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture

Article excerpt

Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture Alan Sokal. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. 465 pp. $34.95

In 1996, Alan Sokal perpetrated a hoax, one that he held to be useful, beneficial, and ethical, since, unlike most frauds, he immediately revealed what he had done. Nevertheless, the publication of "Transgressing the Boundaries" was a hoax that hoodwinked the editors of Social Text as well as those readers who did not learn that the paper was a parody. This simple 35 page essay subsequently spawned an ongoing library of works from Sokal's pen: The explanation in Lingua Franca, an afterword published in Dissent, a lecture at NYU, an essay in House Built on Sand, Jean Bricmont and the author's Fashionable Nonsense (originally published in French and then in Great Britain under a different title), and now this enormous collection which includes many of the aforementioned works as well as some new essays on a diversity of extrapolated topics. Sokal begins by reprinting the text of "Transgressing" on right- hand pages; on the facing left- hand one finds a series of extensive annotations explaining and commenting, as if this were an arcane theological text glossed by a wise but hermetic scholar secreted away on Mt. Athos. Thus, the original 35 pages have grown to 87, which admittedly include many blank left- hand pages. Some of the other reprinted works contain new footnoted remarks.

Sokal is a scientist and thus it is no surprise that he advocates the application of logic, reason, and evidence when analyzing and attempting to draw conclusions about the physical and social world. …

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