[iDC] The Future of the Humanities

Charles Turner vze26m98 at optonline.net
Thu Jul 14 19:48:16 UTC 2011

On Jul 13, 2011, at 8:56 AM, Florian Cramer wrote:

> It is not widely acknowledged, but the
> Sokal affair destroyed much of that credibility and ever since had the
> humanities humbled in front of the sciences. (It's interesting that
> "Social Text" is a partner of Mobility Shifts, btw.)

Hmmm... I wonder how many in the humanities have read Mara Beller's analysis of the Sokal Affair in _Physics Today_ (1998):


"Astonishing statements, hardly distinguishable from those satirized by Sokal, abound in the writings of Bohr, Heisenberg, Pauli, Born and Jordan. And they are not just casual, incidental remarks. Bohr intended his philosophy of complementarity to be an overarching epistemological principle--applicable to physics, biology, psychology and anthropology. He expected complementarity to be a substitute for the lost religion. He believed that complementarity should be taught to children in elementary schools. Pauli argued that 'the most important task of our time' was the elaboration of a new quantum concept of reality that would unify science and religion. Born stated that quantum philosophy would help humanity cope with political reality of the era of World War II. Heisenberg expressed the hope that the results of quantum physics 'will exert their influence upon the wider fields of the world of ideas [just as] the changes at the end of the cultural Renaissance transformed the cultural life of the succeeding epochs.'"

"We find ourselves in a peculiar predicament. On the one hand, either the whole enterprise of inferring from the scientific to the cultural and political is misconceived, unfounded and far-fetched--in which case some of our greatest physicists are no less guilty than our postmodernist critics. Or, on the other hand, drawing inferences from the scientific to the wider cultural domain is indeed a meaningful and profound activity--in which case we must judge the undertaking of the postmodernist cultural analysts to be respectable, commendable and important, even though we may regret, and perhaps even condemn, the scientific illiteracy of some of them."

Best wishes, Charles

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