Reply to Our Critics

Jean Bricmont and Alan Sokal

in The One Culture?

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2001 | ISBN: 9780226467221
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226467245 | DOI:
Reply to Our Critics

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This chapter addresses substantive criticisms. The chapter here attempts to set straight a few commentators' misreadings of the earlier arguments. For example, according to Steven Shapin, “Bricmont and Sokal attribute the cultural credibility of flat-Earth or witchcraft beliefs to ‘the existence of a radically relativist academic Zeitgeist.’” But no such thing happened. Rather, the text noted “the existence of a radically relativist academic Zeitgeist” in which some “otherwise reasonable researchers or university professors...will claim that witches are as real as atoms”—their obvious intent being to cast doubt on the existence of atoms, not to assert a sincere belief in the existence of witches—”or pretend to have no idea whether the Earth is flat, blood circulates, or the Crusades really took place” [emphasis added]. The text was thus discussing extreme relativism or skepticism in academia; it made no reference whatsoever to extreme credulity in the general nonacademic culture, much less did it claim that the latter is a causal consequence of the former.

Keywords: Steven Shapin; radical relativism; beliefs; skepticism; witches; nonacademic culture

Chapter.  6107 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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