Fashionable Nonsense Book Summary - Fashionable Nonsense Book explained in key points
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Fashionable Nonsense summary

Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont

Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science

4.1 (45 ratings)
13 mins

Brief summary

Fashionable Nonsense by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont reveals the absurdities of postmodernist academia by exposing the misuse of scientific jargon in fields like literary criticism, art history, and sociology.

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    Fashionable Nonsense
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    Postmodernism is a wide-ranging term that challenges the concept of objective truth.

    To understand what makes postmodernism such a controversial subject, let’s first take a close look at the concept’s defining features.

    Postmodernism denies that there is any objective “truth” to be found in the world.

    Postmodernists believe that everything, including science, is a social construct. According to their view, all traditional forms of knowledge contain limited and biased ideas about the way things are. This facet of postmodernism is often called relativism, because it suggests that everything we know is relative and based on the individual.

    For example, several Native American tribes have origin myths that claim their people have lived in the Americas ever since their ancestors “emerged onto the surface of the earth from a subterranean world of spirits.”

    Some postmodernists argue that such beliefs are just as “valid” and “true” as the scientific evidence showing that the first humans entered the Americas by crossing the Bering Strait from Asia between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago.

    In this way, postmodernists suggest that there is no objective reality and that everything is an individual interpretation of the world. So, from a postmodern perspective, the Native American creation myth is as valid as the scientific evidence. From a scientific and factual perspective, however, only one can be considered “true.”

    That said, postmodernism can balance out the negative effects of extreme modernism.

    Modernism was an early twentieth-century movement designed to analyze every aspect of our existence in order to find out what was holding us back from “progress.” Sometimes this caused us to over-romanticize technology or Western values.

    So, when postmodernism arrived in the late twentieth century, it showed us that such idealistic views often lead to our diminishing the value systems of other cultures.

    And making room for a broader and more diverse range of voices is, of course, beneficial to our culture. So, in the following blinks, we will limit our look at postmodernism to cases involving scientific discourse – where it can do the most damage.

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    What is Fashionable Nonsense about?

    In Fashionable Nonsense (1998), we dive into some of the problematic aspects of postmodernism, a fashionable intellectual trend in universities worldwide. Learn how inaccessible, complex language does not always translate into profound ideas, and discover how the popularity of postmodern nonsense can actually harm society.

    Fashionable Nonsense Review

    Fashionable Nonsense (1997) critiques the misuse of scientific concepts and technical jargon in certain areas of the humanities. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • By exposing the intellectual flaws in postmodern philosophy, it challenges widely accepted ideas and forces us to critically examine our own beliefs.
    • The book's thorough analysis of specific examples and arguments showcases the authors' deep understanding of both science and philosophy.
    • With a sharp wit and a clear writing style, it dismantles complex theories in a way that is accessible and engaging for readers of various backgrounds.

    Best quote from Fashionable Nonsense

    Sokals piece uses all the right terms. It cites all the best people… And it is complete, unadulterated bullshit. - Journalist Gary Kamiya

    —Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont
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    Who should read Fashionable Nonsense?

    • Readers who want to learn more about the Sokal hoax
    • Scholars and critics of relativism and its implicit dangers
    • Students critical of postmodernism

    About the Author

    Alan Sokal is a physics professor at New York University and the author of Beyond the Hoax.

    Jean Bricmont is a professor of theoretical physics at the Université de Louvain, in Belgium. He also co-wrote Humanitarian Imperialism, with Diana Johnstone.

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    Fashionable Nonsense FAQs 

    What is the main message of Fashionable Nonsense?

    Fashionable Nonsense exposes the misuse of scientific concepts in postmodern philosophy and cultural studies.

    How long does it take to read Fashionable Nonsense?

    The reading time for Fashionable Nonsense varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Fashionable Nonsense a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Fashionable Nonsense is a thought-provoking read, shedding light on intellectual dishonesty. It's definitely worth checking out!

    Who is the author of Fashionable Nonsense?

    Fashionable Nonsense is written by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont.