FOM: wider cultural significance, part 1 (postmodernism)

Stephen G Simpson simpson at
Wed Mar 3 15:06:18 EST 1999

Postmodernism is a fraud; this was proved conclusively by Alan Sokal's
famous `Social Text' experiment -- if more proof was needed.  Yet
postmodernists now constitute a large and influential segment of the
academic philosophy community, to the point where even non-pomo
academic philosophers must act polite and respectful.  I'm an academic
too, but fortunately, I'm in a math department, not a philosophy

Michael Detlefsen 2 Mar 1999 15:20:18 comments on my blast at

 > He begins with the penetrating observation that 'humanist academics
 > of the postmodern stripe ... are all charlatans'.

I didn't say that all humanist academics of the postmodern stripe are
charlatans.  I only said that all of the big names of postmodernism
are charlatans.  But I do need to apologize: I was too harsh on
Mr. Thomas, I got too personal, and besides, Thomas is only a junior
postmodernist player, not one of the big guns.

However, let's not go off on a tangent.  This is the FOM list, so
let's keep the discussion close to foundations of mathematics.  It
seems to me that there is a logic tie-in here, via Marx.

Martin Davis 1 Mar 1999 21:36:30 said of the postmodernists:

 > These folks are neither "neo" nor "Marxist." Marx thought to have
 > found the truth. These folks deny its existence.

I disagree.  Marx was no truth-seeker.  Indeed, Marx made a major
contribution to truth-denial, with his theory of *polylogism*, i.e.,
the theory that there is no one absolute or universal logic.
According to Marx, logic is conditioned by non-logical factors.  In
Marx's specific version of the theory, the determining factor is
social class.  According to Marx, there are competing logics such as
`bourgeois logic', `proletarian logic', etc., based on social class,
and the only arbiter among them is raw power or historical necessity.
(This predated the Nazi theory of `Jewish logic', `Aryan logic', etc.)
The economist Ludwig von Mises dubbed Marx's multiple-logic theory
`polylogism'.  According to von Mises, Marx devised this theory in
order to spare himself the necessity of refuting the arguments of the
classical economists; he simply dismissed those arguments as being
based on `bourgeois logic'.  But clearly it goes deeper than that.  In
my opinion, Marx was actually hostile to all reason and objectivity.
In this respect Marx was a forerunner of postmodernism, and obviously
all the postmodernists pay a great deal of attention to him.

-- Steve

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