The 'Crises in Epistemology' - Sokal, Bricmont, and the Scientific Standards in Philosophy

Hans-Joachim Niemann, ›Die "Krise in der Erkenntnistheorie" - Sokal, Bricmont und die wissenschaftlichen Standards in der Philosophie‹, CONCEPTUS Nr. 80 (2000), in print.

Summary. Ambiguities and inadequacies in Popper's epistemology combined with stubborn denial of the method of confirmation in science are to have provoked exaggerated criticism and thus the postmodern relativistic irrationalist drift. The physicists Sokal and Bricmont gave their criticism import, because in the same book they present competent and laudable critics of the irrational abuse of science in the writings of postmodern French thinkers. In addition they seem to confront Popper's epistemology with the actual doing of real scientists. Unfortunately they neither do reveal their new inductive method nor let us learn which problem is solved by it, for physics can manage without any inductive method. It will be shown that Popper was not "taken literally" and what he is alleged to have meant (meanwhile a cliché petrified during several decades) he has not. The refutation of the renewed criticism of Popper is combined with a comparison of the quite different standards in physics and philosophy. Finally some proposals are made in order to transfer the scientific standards of physics into philosophy.

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