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A brief note on postmodernist philosophy


Intellectual impostures.”— That’s the name of a book by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont exposing the, well, intellectual impostures of postmodernists. I don’t know if I’ll ever read it, since postmodernism is generally a waste of time, but there are excerpts on the internet. For example in this review of the book by Richard Dawkins:


...The feminist 'philosopher' Luce Irigaray is another who gets whole-chapter treatment from Sokal and Bricmont. In a passage reminiscent of a notorious feminist description of Newton's Principia (a "rape manual"), Irigaray argues that E=mc2 is a "sexed equation." Why? Because "it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us" (my emphasis of what I am rapidly coming to learn is an 'in' word). Just as typical of this school of thought is Irigaray's thesis on fluid mechanics. Fluids, you see, have been unfairly neglected. "Masculine physics" privileges rigid, solid things. Her American expositor Katherine Hayles made the mistake of re-expressing Irigaray's thoughts in (comparatively) clear language. For once, we get a reasonably unobstructed look at the emperor and, yes, he has no clothes:


“The privileging of solid over fluid mechanics, and indeed the inability of science to deal with turbulent flow at all, she attributes to the association of fluidity with femininity. Whereas men have sex organs that protrude and become rigid, women have openings that leak menstrual blood and vaginal fluids.... From this perspective it is no wonder that science has not been able to arrive at a successful model for turbulence. The problem of turbulent flow cannot be solved because the conceptions of fluids (and of women) have been formulated so as necessarily to leave unarticulated remainders.”


As it turns out, the real reason for the scientific difficulty of turbulent flow is that the Navier-Stokes equations are hard to solve.


These sorts of writers love to use scientific jargon out of context, as in this relatively lucid but meaningless sentence from Jean Baudrillard: “Perhaps history itself has to be regarded as a chaotic formation, in which acceleration puts an end to linearity and the turbulence created by acceleration deflects history definitively from its end, just as such turbulence distances effects from their causes.” And so on and so forth, from a galaxy of respected academics. Bruno Latour, for instance, arguing that a recent scientific discovery that a pharaoh from ancient Egypt had died of tuberculosis was nonsense because tuberculosis was invented (socially constructed) in the 19th century. What a topsy-turvy world, in which people like this are celebrated while real people who work three jobs to put food on the table for their families, and who doubtless are much more sensible thinkers than the Irigarays and Latours, get no recognition!

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