Alan Sokal Interview

Here’s a TPM interview with Alan Sokal. As Sokal says, perhaps it is inevitable that whatever his technical achievements are, he will be remembered for the so-called “Sokal hoax.” The vitriol that this debate generated I think did philosophy a service to a degree – “Continental” and analytical philosophy – but the slanging match did get tiresome and unproductive. I don’t think it was postmodernism per se that was Sokal’s target, but more areas where a lack of philosophical culture licenced uncritical and obscure “thinking.” We know of course that Sokal had political motivations – this wooly brand of postmodernism wasn’t doing the traditional Left any favours. The Right also picked up on this debate finding some common ground with Sokal but thereby also muddied the waters. The best work on this debate still remains Jim Brown’s magnanimous Who Rules in Science? An Opinionated Guide to the Wars. But cutting across this debate making it even more complex is the debate between radical social constructivists and more modest constructivists – the best work on this being Andre Kukla’s strident Social constructivism and the philosophy of science.