Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Sokal I 145
Theory of Relativity/Bruno Latour/BricmontVsLatour/SokalVsLatour/Sokal: (B. Latour, "A relativistic account of Einstein's relativity", Social Studies of Science, 18, 1988, p. 3-44.)
Definiton Strong Programme/Knowledge Sociology/Latour/Sokal: Latour regards his article as part and extension of the "strong programme" of science sociology, which claims that "the content of every science is thoroughly social" (p. 3).
Theory of Relativity/Latour: Thesis: the theory of relativity itself can be considered social (p. 4f).
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Sokal I 147
SokalVsLatour: Latour misunderstands the concept of the reference system in physics. Problem: In the textbooks of relativity theory, the reference system is often equated vaguely with an "observer".
Reference system/theory of relativity/Bricmont/Sokal: more precisely, a reference system can be understood as a group of observers, one of whom is at each point in the room and all of whom are equipped with synchronized clocks.
SokalVsLatour: he seems to be of the opinion that the relativity theory is concerned with the relative position (and not with the relative velocity) of different reference systems.
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Sokal 148
SokalVsLatour: he also brings in, how Latour claims, that Einstein has considered three reference systems. Einstein never did this. (Besides, Latour misspelled the equations (p. 18, fig. 8).
Solution/Sokal: the Lorentz transformations make a third reference system superfluous.
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Sokal I 149
Latour: "... his desire to discipline the delegated observers and to make dependent parts of an apparatus limited to observing the superimposition of pointers and positions...".
SokalVsLatour: Latour misunderstands this: the "observers" are fictional. They were introduced by Einstein for educational reasons only. Therefore, there is no need to "discipline" them.
Latour: The ability of delegated observers (...) to send reports is only possible because of their absolute dependency and even stupidity.... this is the price to pay for the freedom and credibility of the enunciator (p. 19).
SokalVsLatour: his third mistake is to assign this enunciator a central role.
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Sokal I 150
It is merely part of Einstein's didactic explanation. Sokal speaks of the "privileges" that this one allegedly has.
Privileges/Latour:... fighting against privileges in economics or physics are literally the same, not metaphorical.
Comparisons/Analogies/SokalVsLatour: Latour - just like Lacan (see A. Sokal and J. Bricmont, Eleganter Unsinn, Munich 1999, p. 38) insist on the literal validity of a comparison, which at best should be interpreted as a vague metaphor. (Analogies/SokalVsLacan).
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Sokal I 153
Theory of Relativity/Latour: (B. Latour, "A relativistic account of Einstein's relativity", Social Studies of Science, 18, 1988, p. 5): our intention... is the following: In what way can we, by reformulating the concept of society, understand Einstein's work as explicitly social? A related question is: how can we learn from Einstein to explore society?
SokalVsLatour: has Latour learned anything from his analysis of relativity theory what is "transferable to society"? At the level of pure logic, the answer is no: the theory of relativity in physics has no implications for sociology.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Lat I
Bruno Latour
Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society Cambridge, MA 1988

Sokal I
Alan Sokal
Jean Bricmont
Fashionabel Nonsense. Postmodern Intellectuals Abuse of Science, New York 1998
German Edition:
Eleganter Unsinn. Wie die Denker der Postmoderne die Wissenschaften missbrauchen München 1999

Sokal II
Alan Sokal
Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science New York 1999


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2020-03-29
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