Prickly questions

by Henry on May 22, 2017

Many CT readers will already be familiar with the recent effort by two scholars to repeat the Sokal hoax, as they understood it, by getting a bottom-feeder journal to publish a piece on imagined penises and global warming. Steven Pinker declared a smashing victory


albeit maybe slightly prematurely. James Taylor at Bleeding Hearts Libertarians

The first journal that Bognossian and Lindsay submitted their hoax paper to, and that rejected it, was NORMA: The International Journal for Masculinity Studies. This journal doesn’t even hit the top 115 journals in Gender Studies. So, what happened here was that they submitted a hoax paper to an unranked journal, which summarily rejected it. They then received an auto-generated response directing them to a pay-to-publish vanity journal. They submitted the paper there, and it was published. From this chain of events they conclude that the entire field of Gender Studies is “crippled academically”. This tells us very little about Gender Studies, but an awful lot about the perpetrators of this “hoax”…. and those who tout it as a take down of an entire field.

and Elizabeth Berman at OrgTheory:

But in looking at the original journal, I noticed this crazy business model they have. The journal, Cogent Social Sciences, is an open-access outlet published by Cogent OA. It charges $1350 to publish an article, unless you don’t have $1350, in which case they’ll take some unspecified minimum. … Cogent OA, it turns out, is owned by Taylor & Francis, one of the largest academic publishers. Cogent OA has a FAQ that conveniently asks, “What is the relationship between Cogent OA and Taylor & Francis?” … Cogent OA is part of the Taylor & Francis Group, benefitting from the resources and experiences of a major publisher, but operates independently from the Taylor & Francis and Routledge imprints. … Together, we also provide authors with the option of transferring any sound manuscript to a journal in the Cogent Series if it is unsuitable for the original Taylor & Francis/Routledge journals, providing benefits to authors, reviewers, editors and readers.

So get this: If your article gets rejected from one of our regular journals, we’ll automatically forward it to one of our crappy interdisciplinary pay-to-play journals, where we’ll gladly take your (or your funder’s or institution’s) money to publish it after a cursory “peer review”. That is a new one to me.

Barring a radical and immediate change, that’s the last time I’ll submit to, or review for, Taylor & Francis or Routledge journals or books.

Two additional notes. First, developing Taylor’s argument a bit, the research design, if you take it at face value is fundamentally inept. The authors of the spoof claim to be both illustrating the problems of review by gender studies academics, and the problems of predatory access journals. But you can’t really do two for the price of one – if you demonstrate that a bad piece got published, you have no way of distinguishing between the two causal hypotheses that you are proposing – that gender journals will publish more or less anything as long as it has the right politics, and that predatory journals will publish more or less anything as long as you come up with the money. Indeed, given that there is already compelling evidence that predatory journals in the sciences will publish all sorts of shite for cash, and that the authors report themselves that their article was rejected by the journal they first submitted it to, it’s hard to come up with a convincing rationale for how the ‘gender studies will publish anything’ rationale is doing any explanatory work at all.

The authors of the hoax are dimly aware of the problem, and try to resolve it through insisting that the predatory journal is owned by Taylor & Francis, and listed on an (apparently not particularly reliable) list of open access journals that adhere to minimal standards. This leads them to make the assertion that:

These facts cast considerable doubt on the facile defense that Cogent Social Sciences is a sham journal that accepted “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” simply to make money. As a result, wherever Cogent Social Sciences belongs on the spectrum just noted, there are significant reasons to believe that much of the problem lies within the very concept of any journal being a “rigorous academic journal in gender studies.”

The logic behind this claim is not immediately clear to me. What is clear is that if the authors had e.g. pre-registered their research design (which was apparently to approach an unranked but-not-pay-to-publish journal to see if it would accept their article), they would have found that their hypothesis was disconfirmed. If they’re interested in the history of scientific endeavour, as they ought to be, they might want to look up the term “saving the phenomenon” and consider whether it might possibly have some personal application. The authors’ claim that:

We didn’t originally go looking to hoax Cogent Social Sciences, however. Had we, this story would be only half as interesting and a tenth as apparently damning.

suggests that they either didn’t understand what they needed to do from the outset, or had some idea but then lost their way.

Second, my own pretend-social-science prediction (which may of course be disconfirmed) is that Steven Pinker and other prominent ‘skeptics’ are not going to rush to acknowledge that the hoax has gone horribly wrong, even though it obviously has. On the one hand, the skeptics’ own theory of themselves is that they are cool headed, rational assessors of evidence, who hew to scientific standards of proof in developing and testing their personal beliefs while their enemies are prepared to believe in all sorts of gobbledygook. If this theory were to hold true, then one would have expected either (a) that skeptics would have rejected the hoax immediately (perhaps treating it with particular suspicion given that it fit so closely with their political priors about postmodernism and academic feminism) or (b) that if they couldn’t quite get there on their own, they would acknowledge the flaws in the spoof and recalibrate their own beliefs and public arguments as soon as the problems had been pointed out to them.

My prediction starts from the alternative assumption that skeptics, like their opponents, are less a conclave of ice-minded Bayesian ratiocinators than a sports team or political faction looking to win. This means that (like all of us) they are (a) inclined to clutch at anything that has a superficial resemblance to evidence supporting their beliefs, and (b) not to want to let go of it, even when it becomes clear that it isn’t evidence at all, both because of various forms of anchoring bias, and because they don’t want to hand an advantage to their opponents by admitting they were wrong. This leads me to predict that either there will be no acknowledgement of fault by Pinker et Cie, or that if there is some grudging acknowledgment it will be framed so as to assert or imply that the skeptics are right, even if they are wrong.

[Of course, if this is disconfirmed, I could start touting my own ancillary hypothesis to save the phenomenon – that Pinker and people, having read this post or similar arguments, have decided to ‘fess up so as better to prevail in the meta-struggle behind the struggle. That, however, would be cheating on my part.]

{ 67 comments }

1

Gary Othic 05.22.17 at 1:07 pm

“suggests that they either didn’t understand what they needed to do from the outset, or had some idea but then lost their way.”

Occams Razor would presumably fillet this down to ‘they’re idiots’

I’m wondering to what extent having ‘hard-nosed rationalist’ as a defining part of an identity makes it harder to fess up to errors of this kind?

2

Eszter Hargittai 05.22.17 at 1:57 pm

The first time I came across this case, I pretty much stopped engaging once I read “high quality peer-reviewed” applied to “Cogent Social Sciences.” But since not all reacted that way, it is worth having this conversation.

3

AcademicLurker 05.22.17 at 2:32 pm

The complete lack of respect for or understanding of Sokal’s hoax that this stunt demonstrates is one of the most annoying things about it.

4

Jerry Vinokurov 05.22.17 at 3:05 pm

The comments on the BHL page are priceless. In response to the obvious bad faith displayed by Boghossian, Jerry Coyne (among others) basically replies “well, we already knew gender studies was garbage so it doesn’t matter that this experiment is worthless.” Tells you all you need to know, basically.

5

Nicholas Gruen 05.22.17 at 3:13 pm

Thanks for an excellent post. Irritating that we’re organised into football teams when we’re supposed to be trying to figure stuff out. Aren’t Pinker et all against that kind of thing? They say they are :)

6

medrawt 05.22.17 at 3:34 pm

Nicholas Gruen –

The thing about being against organizing into football teams is that you start writing about the value of not being organized into football teams, then you get positive feedback for writing about it, then you start organizing conferences where all the people who write about the value of not being organized into football teams can speak to their sympathetic readers, then people start identifying themselves as NBOIFT when describing themselves and speaking broadly of the NBOIFT community, and then you’ve got a football team. Dissecting human nature doesn’t actually mean you can escape it.

7

T 05.22.17 at 3:43 pm

They are also incompetent and lazy in addition to dishonest. First, they weren’t clever enough to troll even a lowly ranked peer-reviewed journal. Second, failing the first time they didn’t rework their original paper or write a new one that passes muster. Finally, they lied about it in an obvious manner thus reinforcing the conclusion that they are incompetent and lazy. I guess I should add smug — why in the hell do you publicize a failed troll attempt that disproves your point?

8

Hammy 05.22.17 at 3:48 pm

Joe Rogan recently hosted a debate between Michael Shermer (editor of Skeptic) and Graham Hancock (author of Fingerprints of the Gods). There too the Skeptic approach was pretty underwhelming, with Shermer and another contributor misquoting and misattributing Hancock, and then using those untruths to damn Hancock as a kook. At the end of the debate I was no more convinced of Hancock’s theories than at the start, not least because Shermer and his associate seemed more interesting in running a hit piece than deconstructing Hancock’s arguments. They avoided specifics like the plague, almost wholly relying on the efficiency theory (e.g., if you see a $20 on the street its a fake because if it was real someone else would have already picked it up, mutatis mutandis, Hancock’s archeology is pseudoscientific because its not mainstream).

You can see the “debate” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFlAFo78xoQ

9

Armando 05.22.17 at 4:25 pm

Can anyone get Pinker to respond? He’s always seemed to me a reasonable person, even when I disagree with him. (I’m not sure that this is a majority opinion here.)

10

Dingus 05.22.17 at 5:41 pm

I dislike all parties in this situation equally, so I’m not picking sides.

That being said, I don’t think it’s true that the authors of this hoax, regardless of their ill intentions, haven’t exposed problems both with academic publishing and with a particular discipline or sub-discipline(s). After all, the “editorial board” of Cogent OA Social Sciences lists the following “senior editors”:

Angela Benson (University of Brighton, UK)
John Martyn Chamberlain (Swansea University, UK)
Ben Derudder (Ghent University, Belgium)
Vassil Girginov (Brunel University, UK)
Jamie Halsall (University of Huddersfield, UK)

and the following “editors”:

Abdelgadir Abuelgasim (United Arab Emirates University, UAE)
Elhadi Adam (University of Witwatersrand, South Africa)
John Akokpari (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Maurizio Ambrosini (University of Milan, Italy)
Arjun Appadurai (NYU Steinhardt, USA)
David Bara (University of East London, UK)
Chris Begley (Transylvania University, USA)
Claudia Bell (University of Auckland, New Zealand)
David Bell (University of Leeds, UK)
Mark Bendall (University of Chester, UK)
Sarah Brauner-Otto (McGill University, Canada)
Thom Brooks (Durham University, UK)
Adam Burgess (University of Kent, UK)
Bertrand Cabedoche (Grenoble Alpes University, France)
Elizabeth Caldwell (University of Huddersfield, UK)
Katy Campbell (University of Alberta, Canada)
Liz Campbell (Durham University, UK)
Silvio Caputo (University of Portsmouth, UK)
Gustavo Cardoso (ISCTE University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal)
Laurence Carmichael (University of the West of England, UK)
Julia Carter (Canterbury Christ Church University, UK)
Paula Chakravartty (NYU Steinhardt, USA)
Ganghua Chen (Sun Yat-Sen University, China)
Tom Cockcroft (Leeds Beckett University, UK)
Willem Coetzee (University of Otago, New Zealand)
Eliseo R. Colón-Zayas (University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico)
Stefan Couperus (University of Groningen, Netherlands)
Jennifer L. Croissant (University of Arizona, USA)
Christopher Crowther-Dowey (Nottingham Trent University, UK)
Jamie Davidson (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Ronald Donaldson (Stellenbosch University, South Africa)
Xuejun Duan (University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)
Ann-Zofie Duvander (Stockholm University, Sweden)
Megan Farrelly (Monash University, Australia)
Charles Feng (Shenzhen University, China)
Francesco Fiorito (University of New South Wales, Aus)
Ben Fong (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)
Martin Forsey (University of Western Australia, Australia)
Kurt Fuellhart (Shippensburg University, USA)
Pete Fussey (University of Essex, UK)
Candida Gago Garcia (Complutense University of Madrid, Spain)
Jon Garland (University of Surrey, UK)
Fawaz Gerges (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
Christopher Gifford (University of Huddersfield, UK)
Carroll Glynn (Ohio State University, USA)
Berenice Golding (University of Huddersfield, UK)
Bruce E. Goldstein (University of Colorado Boulder, USA)
Kate Gooch (University of Leicester, UK)
Gordon Gow (University of Alberta, Canada)
Sonya Graci (Ryerson University, Canada)
Ann Grand (University of Western Australia, Australia)
Richard J. Grant (University of Miami, USA)
Simon Green (University of Hull, UK)
Nic Groombridge (St Mary’s University, UK)
Shang Ha (Sogang University, South Korea)
Rachel Hale (Cardiff University, UK)
Samantha Halliday (University of Leeds, UK)
Keith Hayward (University of Kent, UK)
Timothy Heppell (University of Leeds, UK)
Benjamin Ho (Vassar College, USA)
Philip Hodgson (University of Derby, UK)
Christina Holtz-Bacha (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany)
Rong Huang (University of Plymouth, UK)
Chua Beng Huat (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Denis Hyams-Ssekasi (University of Bolton, UK)
Helen Jones (Leeds Beckett University, UK)
Tong Kar-Wai (Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong)
Anna Karlsdóttir (University of Iceland, Iceland)
Riva Kastoryano (Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), France)
Gayle Kaufman (Davidson College, USA)
Kieran Keohane (University College Cork, Ireland)
Habibul Khondker (Zayed University, United Arab Emirates)
Eyun-Jung Ki (University of Alabama, USA)
Tonny Krijnen (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands)
Murray Lee (University of Sydney, Australia)
Will Leggett (University of Birmingham, UK)
Farzad Pour Rahimian Leilabadi (University of Strathclyde, UK)
Wai Lim (University of Plymouth, UK)
Billie Lister (Leeds Beckett University, UK)
Brent Lovelock (University of Otago, New Zealand)
Kelvin Low (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Zhouxiang Lu (Maynooth University, Ireland)
Will Ma (Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong)
Pieter Maeseele (University of Antwerp, Belgium)
Patrick Maher (Cape Breton University, Canada)
Muhd Zaimi Abd Majid (Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia)
Lawal Marafa (Chinese University of Hong Kong, China)
Megan Le Masurier (The University of Sydney, Australia)
Kieran Mccartan (University of the West of England, UK)
Stephen McKay (Queen’s University Belfast, UK)
Richard McManus (University of Canterbury, UK)
Sarah Moore (University of Bath, UK)
Sônia Virgínia Moreira (Rio de Janeiro State University, Brazil)
Gabe Mythen (University of Liverpool, UK)
Seio Nakajima (Waseda University, Japan)
Krzysztof Nawratek (University of Sheffield, UK)
Peter Nedergaard (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
Marco Odello (Aberystwyth University, UK)
George Ofori (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Hiroki Ogasawara (Kobe University, Japan)
Gwang Ok (Chungbuk National University, Korea)
Livia Olah (Stockholm University, Sweden)
Siddig A Omer (University of Nottingham, UK)
Jan Orbie (Ghent University, Belgium)
Martin O’Brien (University of Central Lancashire, UK)
Kathryn Pain (University of Reading, UK)
Christof Parnreiter (University of Hamburg, Germany)
Vinod Pavarala (University of Hyderabad, India)
Chengzhi Peng (University of Sheffield, UK)
Kenneth Arne Pettersen (University of Stavanger, Norway)
Juan Ignacio Pulido-Fernández (Universidad de Jaen, Spain)
Thorsten Quandt (University of Münster, Germany)
Jan Rath (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Emma Rees (University of Chester, UK)
Sandy Ross (University of Melbourne, Australia)
Hannah Le Roux (University of the Witswatersrand, South Africa)
Shouraseni Sen Roy (University of Miami, USA)
Albert Sabater (University of St Andrews, UK)
Fatima Sadiqi (Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Morocco)
Karen Sanders (University of Navarra, Spain)
Volker Schmidt (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Toby Seddon (University of Manchester, UK)
Sandro Serpa (University of the Azores, Portugal)
Begum Sertyesilisik (Istanbul Technical University, Turkey)
Fuyuan Shen (Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Jianfa Shen (Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Xu Hui Simon Shen (Chinese University of Hong Kong, China)
Vineeta Sinha (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Danielle Sinnett (University of the West of England, UK)
Daniel Smith (Anglia Ruskin University, UK)
Thomas Soehl (McGill University, Canada)
Rudi Stouffs (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Agnieszka Stępińska (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland)
Kristin Surak (SOAS – University of London, UK)
Stig Arve Sæther (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway)
Birgitte Refslund Sørensen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
Luděk Sýkora (Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic)
Edgar Tembo (University of Chester, UK)
Daniel Tevera (University of the Western Cape, South Africa)
Stephen Tomsen (Western Sydney University, Australia)
Stephen Tong (Canterbury Christ Church University, UK)
James Treadwell (Birmingham City University, UK)
Elaine Tsui (Hong Kong Baptist University, China)
Bart Vanreusel (KU Leuven, Belgium)
Sofia Vougioukalou (University of Cardiff, UK)
Azrini Wahidin (Teesside University, UK)
Steve Wakeman (Liverpool John Moores University, UK)
Janet Wasko (University of Oregon, USA)
Graeme Were (University of Queensland, Australia)
Belinda Wheaton (University of Brighton, UK)
Simon Winlow (Teesside University, UK)
Olaf Zenker (Free University of Berlin, Germany)
Hüseyin Ünlü (Aksaray University, Turkey)

WOW! So, the question remains: why have all of these seemingly legitimate scholars attached their names, and provided legitimate cover to, what is being portrayed here as a “predatory” journal? Doesn’t that reflect poorly on the discipline…?

11

AcademicLurker 05.22.17 at 6:05 pm

Dingus@10: A colleague of mine was once surprised when he opened up a copy of a journal he’d never heard of and saw his name listed on the front page as a member of the Editorial Board.

I, and most other academics, get invitations to be an editor or editorial board member for various shady journals every day, often multiple times a day. I suppose some people might accept purely to pad their CVs. I don’t know that that’s the case here, but you can’t really infer much from the list of editors. As noted above, some of them might not even know that they’re listed.

12

MD 05.22.17 at 6:06 pm

T @7
“why in the hell do you publicize a failed troll attempt that disproves your point?”

I also wondered about this. When I first heard about it, I honestly thought it might be a kind of Sokaling of the Sokalers–proving that, so long as it confirms their predetermined views, they’d gloat over a hoax that, once you look at the details, clearly doesn’t show anything like what they want it to show. But this seems not to be the case.

I think the real reasons are: (1) they were, as Andrew Gelman put it in a comment on that OrgTheory post, “faked out by the professional-looking typesetting of this particular scam journal” and (2) they knew they’d get twitter approbation from the high priests of their tribe, regardless of the execution (dick jokes tricking the pomoers is just too juicy to pass up). Judging by the tweets of Dawkins, Harris, Pinker, et al., (2) was right on the money.

But I do wonder if they also submitted it to more prominent journals where it got rejected before it got rejected by NORMA. If they did, but didn’t say this in their write-up, this would be even more dishonest (and would be even better evidence against their hypothesis). If they didn’t, one has to wonder why they wouldn’t have submitted it to one of these more prominent journals. That’d be a much better test case for their purposes, no? If I wanted to show, e.g., academic philosophy was bunk and would publish anything confirming some moral orthodoxy, I’d try to hoax Phil Review, JPhil, Mind, etc. And by the time I got to a journal that doesn’t even show up in the rankings, I’d have started doubting my hypothesis.

13

dporpentine 05.22.17 at 6:10 pm

I honestly don’t understand why people take Steven Pinker seriously. He wrote a book to defend the “reasonable debate” occasioned by The Bell Curve. He was behind Larry Summers’s whole “lady brains” thing at Harvard. He was happy to pounce on the Ferguson Effect nonsense.

He’s a Charles Murray with better credentials and a more distinctive ‘do. That’s it.

14

lemmy caution 05.22.17 at 6:11 pm

Even if it was completely fraudulent like phrenology or something, it would probably be hard to publish in a top journal of phrenology. Spots in the top journals are valuable so they must use some criteria to weed everybody out. Just because you don’t know how they do it doesn’t mean they don’t do it.

They published sokal because he was a professor of physics and used his real name.

15

Dingus 05.22.17 at 9:36 pm

AcademicLurker@11: I don’t doubt that such things can happen, and do happen. I do, however, doubt that, in this case, Taylor & Francis would break various laws in various jurisdictions in order to use over a hundred names without authorization in order to promote one of its article mills.

Instead of attacking the messengers, insufferable and even malicious as they may be, I think that we ought to ask ourselves why so many academics have opted to attach their names to such garbage. That’s a valid criticism, even when being made by self-promoting hacks like Steven Pinker or by ideologically-driven “skeptics.”

You say “you can’t really infer much” from these facts. I disagree. You can infer a lot. I infer that many of the people listed above were too careless to do any vetting before they allowed themselves to be flattered into lending credibility to a for-profit article mill. That, to me, is intellectually corrupt.

16

Alex SL 05.22.17 at 9:49 pm

But you can’t really do two for the price of one – if you demonstrate that a bad piece got published, you have no way of distinguishing between the two causal hypotheses that you are proposing – that gender journals will publish more or less anything as long as it has the right politics, and that predatory journals will publish more or less anything as long as you come up with the money.

This is an excellent point that I have not seen made elsewhere.

Just one thing: The model where a publisher has a prestigious journal and one to several associated pay-to-publish journals to which manuscripts rejected by the former can be transferred is becoming extremely popular, at least in my area. Those who say they are not going to submit manuscripts to or review for such a publisher may soon find themselves restricted to a very small and shrinking number of society-run journals.

17

Jason Weidner 05.22.17 at 10:50 pm

I was once asked to review a submission to what I later learned was a predatory “pay to play” journal. It was very early in my career and I hadn’t even heard of such a thing before. The article was horrible, and I suggested rejecting it. Later I got an email from the author who was really pissed that he had spent a bunch of money only to have his article rejected. That was when I realized it was a scam and regretted having participated in it. Live and learn.

18

AcademicLurker 05.22.17 at 11:36 pm

Dingus@15: I guess by “can’t infer much”, what I meant was “can’t infer that the journal is respectable because of the names attached to it”. You may indeed be able to infer something about the wisdom, or at least the due diligence, of the folks who were willing to be listed as editors or board members.

19

PatinIowa 05.22.17 at 11:49 pm

I know this will sound simple minded, but one thing is clear about both cases, isn’t it?

Sokal and his ilk lie, and sometimes people believe them.

Credulity is bad. Lying is worse. At least in my world.

20

JRLRC 05.23.17 at 12:04 am

You are right, Henry: they invalidated their own “experiment”; the use of a “pay for play” journal made the whole thing (of taking down an entire field) an impossibility. The absence of such journal was/is a necessary condition for validity; “pay for play” is a sufficient condition to take “the new hoax” to the next garbage can. And the very purpose of the take down by way of one text trying to imitate Sokal is questionable. The “Sokal hoax” is a different thing, one that I admire. I think they acted ineptly, because it is not difficult to demonstrate the related problems of academic journals, and Gender Studies can be criticized -no need of mixing with editorial problems that are “trans”…

21

John Quiggin 05.23.17 at 2:01 am

Calling Pinker a “sceptic” isn’t fair to sceptics, at least not all of them/us. Here’s my take on The Blank Slate from 2002. I think he’s got worse since then.

22

T 05.23.17 at 2:30 am

MD@12
I’m with you. Your point 1 goes to the stupid and lazy. To be faked out by nice typesetting really is pathetic. Your second point is just sad. It’s all tribal these days. The mere idea of trolling the other tribe wins even if it fails miserably in practice.

Dingus@10
Wow, just wow. I’d like to hear from academics in other disciplines — is it common for real academics to sit on editorial boards of pay-to-play journals? And if so, why? Or were they in some way misrepresented. I’d also be interested in a rough history of academic vanity journals. How new is this? An internet phenomena?

23

LFC 05.23.17 at 3:14 am

Glancing at JQ’s review of Pinker’s The Blank Slate, I notice JQ referring toward the end to Pinker’s “restatement of a pessimistic view of the human condition,” and there is a quote in which Pinker says violence is a “near-inevitable outcome” of social interaction among rational, self-interested individuals (paraphrased).

Pinker’s views on that issue certainly seem to have changed between The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of Our Nature, so at least it would seem that he can’t be accused of never changing his mind about anything.

24

John Quiggin 05.23.17 at 6:04 am

LFC @23 I noticed that at the time

http://crookedtimber.org/2009/08/05/is-this-the-same-steven-pinker/

I’ve never seen him attempt to reconcile the two, though I admit I haven’t looked hard.

25

Ketan Joshi 05.23.17 at 8:35 am

I think you and I reached some very similar conclusions with regards to tribalism. I like your ‘sports team’ analogy: https://ketanjoshi.co/2017/05/20/the-engine-of-irrationality-inside-the-rationalists/

The interesting thing to observe is that many of the responses to my criticism have been “But we found these gender studies articles that we find incredulous” and “Point out where gender studies has made a contribution” – neither of which are a particularly level-headed responses to the methodological flaws in the hoax, and the unjustified conclusions that were almost universally drawn from it.

Basically, in criticising what I saw as a piece of bad argumentation, I was perceived as a defender and advocate of gender studies. It’s a very instinctive response, and it adds further to your well-described assertion that “skeptics, like their opponents, are less a conclave of ice-minded Bayesian ratiocinators than a sports team or political faction looking to win”.

It’s not that criticisms of my critique were passionately made (this would be fine!) – it’s that responses universally *ignored* my critique, and focused on demanding that I defend gender studies.

26

Chris "merian" W. 05.23.17 at 8:48 am

I don’t even think the original Sokal hoax was that much to write home about, beyond the pretty much incontrovertible affirmation that the paper shouldn’t have been published. As a physicist, once I’d matured out of professional adolescence, Sokal lost in my esteem. It seemed always more emblematic of a (noxious) uncritical and unearned level of prestige afforded to (“hard”) science rather than of the state of whatever branch of philosophy or theory of science the journal belonged to. (Also, seeing Bricmont on French TV hopping from talk show to talk show red-facedly arguing that philosophy was just altogether a bunch of baloney just made me cringe. That his opponents were led by blown-up puff pastry philosophers like BHL didn’t help either.)

As for Pinker (whose books I have enjoyed), I haven’t lately considered him a reasonable guy at all. Indeed, I found myself yelling at him on Twitter. (Over nonsense like his ideas about how applying ethical constraints and norms to science debases it or some such.)

27

casmilus 05.23.17 at 8:56 am

The real story here is the unfolding narrative of 2017 as just a crap retread of the 80s/90s.

28

Neel Krishnaswami 05.23.17 at 8:59 am

I have to admit that my judgement of Sokal declined quite a bit after reading Fashionable Nonsense. Sokal’s (with Bricmont) discussion of Alain Badiou was simply infuriating; their strategy was basically to quote fragments of Badiou out of context and then demand if that could possibly make sense — and no one makes sense when quoted out of context!

The funny and ironic thing is that if they had actually read Badiou more carefully, they would have realized that he is a really hard-core mathematical and physical realist, to the point that he thinks the linguistic turn in philosophy was a big mistake.

Now, I actually strongly disagree with Badiou, as I’m a constructive logician (and hence an antirealist), but he actually is a serious thinker with a creative and technically sound philosophical reading of set theory.

29

casmilus 05.23.17 at 9:01 am

Somewhere in “Theories And Things” there is an essay by W.V.Quine lamenting how standards in philosophy went down when the field got bigger, and new second-rate journals were created to publish the stuff that wasn’t good enough for the existing journals. Dunno which ones he was referring to, but that was back in the early 70s.

30

casmilus 05.23.17 at 9:03 am

@19

What is clear from your comment is that, since you identify lying as a problem, you must have some notion of truth as a value.

31

lastuniversalcommonancestor 05.23.17 at 11:16 am

To be fair, open-access publishing, in which the authors pay a full fee for publication of their work to cover the journal’s operating costs, and their articles are freely available to all readers, arose from the legitimate desire to democratize access to academic/scientific works, especially those of high potential direct impact to the general public (eg, biomedical research). Many OA journals are legitimate, rigorous operations and are bringing a positive change to the world of academic publishing. So the phrase “pay to play” may be unfair to the model (and honestly, the traditional publisher system of often getting money on both ends, as “page charges” by accepted authors and in the form of exorbitant institutional subscription fees by libraries, and single article purchases by individual users, is no less disinterested).

The problem of predatory publishers is that they take advantage of the OA approach by luring unsuspecting authors to submit their work and removing the cumbersome step of peer review, simply accepting the vast majority of submissions in return for their publication fee. Doing so dilutes the quality of their product and the credibility of their authors’ published work, even when legitimate. It also makes it more difficult for the public to trust what they read.

That said, the example discussed by Jason @ #17 does not seem typical of a predatory publisher – that article was submitted to peer review and was actually rejected, so the system worked as expected. The author probably paid a submission fee, which not many journals charge, but not the full publication fee which usually only comes after acceptance. It’s their problem if their article sucked, it sounds almost as if they were complaining that the journal they submitted to was NOT predatory.

32

SusanC 05.23.17 at 12:50 pm

Ok, so I’ve probably resorted to submitting a paper to second-tier journals before now. You know how it goes – the referees of the top tier journal think your paper is not wrong, but kind of “meh” for significance – so off to a second tier journal it goes.

If you go down low enough on the journal ranking, you can get just about anything into print, in any subject area I know about. (Don’t try claiming these publications for academic promotions or the REF — your head of department will, at best, laugh at you).

So this incident says nothing about Gender Studies, as the phenomenon is known to be pervasive. You’ld need to get something into the top-ranked journal in gender studies for it to say anything about the field as a whole.

33

Carl 05.23.17 at 2:30 pm

What’s wrong with the conceptual penis anyway?

Guys, this was a bad hoax because ideology. We’re not ideologically diseased idiots, remember. They are.

P.S Charles Murray is evil Nazi and we’re the ones who decide that.

34

Louis Proyect 05.23.17 at 5:32 pm

35

Alex SL 05.23.17 at 10:23 pm

lastuniversalcommonancestor,

First, I have published nearly all my papers without page charges, so I’d say very few reader-pays journals in my area try to earn money at both sides. (Excepting fees for colour figures in print, those are standard, but then again I remember only one paper where colour was necessary to convey the relevant information.)

Second, the problem is really the change in incentives. Reader-pays means that the journal needs to be high quality, otherwise they will have less buyers, so they have an incentive to accept only legit articles. Author-pays means that the journal earns more money the more articles it accepts, regardless of their quality. I do not doubt that there are many professional, well-meaning open access editors and publishers, but still, incentives have some force…

Really the most rational thing to do would be to have tax-funded, no-profit public utility journals where both publishing and reading are free. Given that the system is largely tax-funded either way, at least in most countries – either by university and research institute libraries or by research budgets and grant monies – taxpayer’s expenses would come out largely as a wash except it would be cheaper without having to include publisher profits. The only problem is that it would become more obvious that the system is taxpayer-funded, whereas now that fact is a bit hidden from view.

36

PatinIowa 05.23.17 at 10:26 pm

@30 You bet.

Who doesn’t? (If you say, “Foucault,” I’ll know you don’t know what you’re talking about.)

37

Smass 05.24.17 at 6:50 am

@Dingus,
Even if the people listed as on the editorial board knew they were being listed it would not say much about any specific “discipline” (let alone gender studies) because the names come from a wide variety of disciplines and few that I can see are gender studies scholars. I actually know of three of the people listed – one is a geographer who works in environmental planning, one is a criminologist who works on drug policy and one an archaeologist specialising in museum studies. That indiscriminate spread of disciplines is characteristic of a vanity journal.

38

SusanC 05.24.17 at 9:38 am

Editors hate colour figures … at least if the journal is going to be actually printed on paper, as opposed to read on screens. In any case, have pity on the poor reader who wants to print out the PDF and only has a black and white laser printer. Page charges for your paper being too long are also common. In many cases, the authors argument is actually improved by forcing them to explain it within the page limit, so theres a virtue in page limits even if we dont have the costs associated with physical paper. But sometimes, you really need 11 pages to explain your argument, especially if you want to address the nit picking coments the referees raised on your first, 10 page, draft. I think page charges in these kinds of cases are completely legit, and dont count as being vanity publishing,

39

ThM 05.24.17 at 10:03 am

40

Bill Benzon 05.24.17 at 10:21 am

Pinker has recanted in this case: “Gender studies” is an academic field that deserves criticism, but The “Conceptual Penis” hoax missed the mark.

https://twitter.com/sapinker/status/867217813047562241

41

SusanC 05.24.17 at 1:07 pm

The comment made earlier that Sokal is a liberal, not a Marxist, is an interesting one.

A Marxian analysis might pay more attention to how the economic pressures on scientists and the institutions of science affect which kinds of knowledge get produced and which don’t. (Which starts sounding like some of the people Sokal criticizes in Intellectual Impostures).

This kind of Marxian position is perhaps more open to contemplating the possibility that the institutions of science could experience what the economists would term a “market failure”. i.e. changes to the economic incentives by which academics get hired and promoted, papers get accepted into journals etc. could have a dramatic effect on the kind of “science” that is produced, as exemplified by the bogus journal.

I find it a bit ironic that the hoaxability of low-ranking journals is in some respects an experimental counterexample to the view of science that Sokal would like to promote.

42

RJL 05.24.17 at 1:29 pm

The rejection by NORMA counts for little regarding the quality of the paper, and the reason for this partly explains the existence of predatory journals and lax standards elsewhere.

The hoaxers’ report does not say that NORMA rejected the article because it failed to meet the quality level, but because it did not excel in an area of the journal’s focus. Every academic here has probably had articles rejected by Ethics that they went on to publish somehwere else that was also good. Prior rejection by Ethics is not good evidence for the ‘unpublishability’ of the paper. Likewise for NORMA.

The fact is that there are not enough quality journals to publish all the papers that all the existing academics (permanent faculty, and adjuncts, and grad students) need to publish to gain tenure or be competitive for tt jobs.

Top journals in their physical form can only publish so many articles, and there is little reason to deflate their prestige value by publishing many more online. New journals are constantly being founded simply because everyone needs an official outlet that will validate their scholarly production. In theory, journal creation will expand until almost everything is published except that which does not even meet PhD standards (and there is plenty of evidence that even those standards are low).

43

casmilus 05.24.17 at 3:04 pm

@36

that’s just your opinion

44

Barry Deutsch 05.24.17 at 3:55 pm

AcademicLurker:

I wouldn’t necessarily judge the people on that editorial board list too harshly. I emailed just two of them – one a senior editor, and one randomly chosen from the long list of editorial board members. Here’s the response I received from the editorial board member:

I have no memory of signing-up as a member of their board!

I *was* a member of the editorial board for a new journal called Law, Crime, Justice and Society. At some point in early 2015 I started getting emails from Cogent Social Sciences. It was the same admin team as Law, Crime, Justice, and Society, but suddenly that journal title was dropped from the correspondence. I think that Law, Crime, Justice and Society somehow changed into Cogent Social Sciences, rolling the editorial board over.

I continued to receive emails from them for the last year or so, many of which have been utterly odd requests to review things far outside my area of expertise. To be honest, I’ve been treating their emails as spam! I’ve just emailed them to ask that my name’s removed from the editorial board.

I have absolutely no idea about the funding structure or operation of this journal. But I can say that I have had a very odd experience with them.

I’m happy for you to write about this, but please could you keep my name/institutional affiliation out of your publications?

Best wishes,

45

roger gathmann 05.24.17 at 5:15 pm

I’ve always wondered why Lancet publishing an article claiming that vaccines cause autism doesn’t entirely disprove Western medicine. But I guess that violates the rules established by the likes of Pinker.
I read one chapter on Bricmont and Sokal’s fashionable nonsense – the one on Deleuze – and I found it hilarious. Apparently, Deleuze is not allowed to borrow terms from science when doing philosophy. They build their whole reading of Deleuze on the basis of this, which is like reading quantum physics as an interpretation of Finnegan’s Wake due to the borrowing of the word quark. Silliness.

46

Jerry Vinokurov 05.24.17 at 6:21 pm

The comment made earlier that Sokal is a liberal, not a Marxist, is an interesting one.

Isn’t Sokal a self-professed Marxist?

47

js. 05.24.17 at 6:34 pm

One small slightly off-topic point. Open-access is not equivalent to the pay-to-play / author pays model. Here’s one fairly prominent philosophy journal that’s OA and free. There are others.

48

Mario 05.24.17 at 9:19 pm

Another fun aspect of this debacle is how the team behind the hoax were unable to (a) properly identify a top journal in the field and (b) realize that they were forwarded to a catch-all vanity journal. That is, they don’t seem to have some of the skills I somehow expected to be part of the baseline for a 21st century academic.

49

Howard Frant 05.24.17 at 10:25 pm

@13 He was behind Larry Summers’s whole “lady brains” thing at Harvard.

I realize this is now part of the folklore, but can we stop? Larry Summers never sad that women have different brains than men, nor that there is some math gene that women lack, nor even that men are better at math than women at all. Also, in what way was Pinker “behind” the whole thing?

50

JRLRC 05.24.17 at 10:57 pm

Yes, “open access” and “pay to play” are not the same -just as science(s) is not equivalent to the formal academic system, and viceversa. That system is pretty fucked up in many places and “pay to play” is, in general, an aberration.

51

Louis Proyect 05.25.17 at 12:56 am

Isn’t Sokal a self-professed Marxist?

No, he describes himself as a socialist. Politically, I would compare him to Bernie Sanders or Michael Moore.

52

J-D 05.25.17 at 1:42 am

Glancing at JQ’s review of Pinker’s The Blank Slate, I notice JQ referring toward the end to Pinker’s “restatement of a pessimistic view of the human condition,” and there is a quote in which Pinker says violence is a “near-inevitable outcome” of social interaction among rational, self-interested individuals (paraphrased).

Pinker’s views on that issue certainly seem to have changed between The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of Our Nature, so at least it would seem that he can’t be accused of never changing his mind about anything.

LFC @23 I noticed that at the time

http://crookedtimber.org/2009/08/05/is-this-the-same-steven-pinker/

I’ve never seen him attempt to reconcile the two, though I admit I haven’t looked hard.

So you made me curious.

There’s an FAQ about the later book on his website:

Does this book represent a change in your politics? After all, a commitment to human nature has traditionally been associated with a conservative fatalism about violence and skepticism about progressive change. But Better Angels says many nice things about progressive movements such as nonviolence, feminism, and gay rights.
No, the whole point of The Blank Slate was that the equation between a belief in human nature and fatalism about the human condition was spurious. Human nature is a complex system with many components. It comprises mental faculties that lead us to violence, but it also faculties that pull us away from violence, such as empathy, self-control, and a sense of fairness. It also comes equipped with open-ended combinatorial faculties for language and reasoning, which allow us to reflect on our condition and figure out better ways to live our lives. This vision of psychology, together with a commitment to secular humanism, has been a constant in my books, though it has become clearer to me in recent years.

How and why has it become clearer?
Though I have always had a vague sense that a scientific understanding of human nature was compatible with a robust secular morality, it was only through the intellectual influence of my wife, the philosopher and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, that I understood the logic connecting them. She explained to me how morality can be grounded in rationality, and how secular humanism is just a modern term for the world view that grew out of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment (in particular, she argues, from the ideas of Spinoza). To the extent that the decline of violence has been driven by ideas, it’s this set of ideas, which I call Enlightenment humanism (pp. 180–183), which has driven it, and it offers the closest thing we have to a unified theory of the decline of violence (pp. 694–696).

53

Val 05.25.17 at 5:30 am

Howard Frant @ 49
There’s a pretty detailed report of what Larry Summers said here https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2005/02/18/summers2_18 (although the link to the transcript in that article doesn’t work for me) and he’s even apologised himself, so I don’t quite know why you are defending him.

Even if you just confine it to the ‘variability’ thing – which isn’t fully discussed in that article – apparently that is not universal. I don’t want to restart the stupid IQ wars, but basically there is no human characteristic that is ‘just’ genetic – genes have to be expressed, and the environment (including the social environment) affects how they are expressed in practice. So to suggest that an ‘innate’ difference in male and female ability could be the reason for women being under-represented in science or maths at Harvard is a real problem, even if he was only talking about variability, and even if he was only making a ‘suggestion’.

54

J-D 05.25.17 at 5:45 am

roger gathmann

I read one chapter on Bricmont and Sokal’s fashionable nonsense – the one on Deleuze – and I found it hilarious. Apparently, Deleuze is not allowed to borrow terms from science when doing philosophy. They build their whole reading of Deleuze on the basis of this, …

That’s not an accurate characterisation of their argument. They don’t make a blanket objection to the borrowing of scientific terms, but only to particular kinds of borrowing which cloud meaning. For words that have both special technical uses and general non-technical ones (like ‘chaos’), they argue that failure to distinguish appropriately creates confusion (and that Deleuze does this); for words that have (to date) only had special technical uses (like ‘abscissa’), they argue that there is an obligation either to use them in a way consistent with the special technical meaning or to define clearly the different meaning being stipulated (and that Deleuze does neither).

55

J-D 05.25.17 at 6:34 am

PatinIowa

Credulity is bad. Lying is worse. At least in my world.

In my world, Operation Himmler and Operation Bodyguard are evaluated differently, even though both were deliberate deceptions.

56

soullite 05.25.17 at 7:21 am

I’d be more willing to believe the hyperbolic commenters here if, if I thought for a second they believed it was even possible to legitimately criticize feminism.

As it is, it occupies a position of near-religious dogma for a lot of lefties, and as such, they will allow no critical examination of its works, or its activists, or any other facet of it at all.

57

J-D 05.25.17 at 8:16 am

soullite

I’d be more willing to believe the hyperbolic commenters here if, if I thought for a second they believed it was even possible to legitimately criticize feminism.

As it is, it occupies a position of near-religious dogma for a lot of lefties, and as such, they will allow no critical examination of its works, or its activists, or any other facet of it at all.

I have no idea which of the commenters here are the ones you consider to be hyperbolic; but in any case your comment is false on the face of it, since feminists frequently criticise other feminists.

58

Val 05.25.17 at 11:42 am

Glance back through the thread suggests the hyperbolic commenters might be me? Though I’m not sure what was hyperbolic? “Stupid IQ wars”?

Also I’m not sure what “legitimately criticize feminism” means? Criticise it as a body of thought? Disagree with some of its contentions? It’s a bit like saying ‘criticise philosophy’ or ‘criticise anti-racism’ or something.

Perhaps Soullite means ‘if it was even possible to legitimately praise patriarchy, I would like to do that’.

59

Ogden Wernstrom 05.25.17 at 8:38 pm

Don’t knock hyperbole until you’ve tried it.

60

dporpentine 05.26.17 at 2:28 am

@Howard Frant 49
From the transcript:

So my best guess, to provoke you, of what’s behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people’s legitimate family desires and employers’ current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.

http://www.harvard.edu/president/speeches/summers_2005/nber.php
If you can’t see that “issues of intrinsic aptitude” is not a euphemism for “have different biological aptitudes that are likely not rooted in their feet but more likely in their brains” then I can’t help you.
This is practically line for line from Pinker–and is closer to his actual field of expertise, unlike Summers–and he was Summers’s clearest and most vigorous defender.
Stop playing Person Who Knows the Truth, Unlike Those People Who Believe in Folklore. It’s a garbage position in defense of a garbage ideology.

61

Pavel A 05.26.17 at 1:29 pm

@soullite

You do know that even feminists routinely criticize and disagree with other feminists, right?

Unless of course you’re wondering why the left doesn’t entertain the notion that women are truly inferior and that gender roles truly are biologically inherent, etc, etc… then no, no one except MRAs and white supremacists (often one and the same!) believes that those are valid avenues of criticizing feminism.

62

PatinIowa 05.26.17 at 4:35 pm

@42 “That’s your opinion.” There, fixed it. The disparaging “just,” suggests that you believe your reading of Foucault is something other than your opinion. If we wanted to adjudicate the issue, we’d trade citations, deploy well founded responses and interpretations and so on. I’ll just leave it like this: I’ve read a ton of Foucault, and he was capable of identifying a lie, within the context of his epistemology. And nowhere does he say it’s okay to make up shit out of whole cloth. Given my epistemology, if you interpret him as a complete epistemological nihilist, you’re misreading him. I.e., I’m as anti-foundationalist as (at least) Rorty, and I have no problem saying, “If you think Foucault doesn’t care about lying, you’re wrong.”

@55 Sokal is not fighting Nazism, and he’s not a Nazi. So neither of your examples, while excellent instances of Godwin’s Law, fits either Sokal or the current example. So let’s look at the current examples. In each of these cases, the editors presumed that the submissions were in good faith. They weren’t, of course. As you say, they were “deliberate deceptions.”

So how do we evaluate someone who presents himself as a serious scholar, observing the decorum of scholarly publication, who, in fact, intends to deceive for political/ideological purposes? Some people in this thread seem to believe that feminism, or certain forms of feminist scholarship, are so bad that intentional deception is a legitimate tool against it. I don’t. And I’m always and everywhere more sympathetic to the lied to than the liar, until, you know, the specific circumstances change my calculation. So, for example, if there’s an battered woman in my house, and her drunken abuser is at the door, I’m going to say, “Nope, haven’t seen her.” (BTW, that’s exactly what I did.)

#56 I would suggest you start with bell hooks circa 1981, read far more than you seem to have read, and understand that “feminism” is no more monolithic than liberalism or Marxism or conservatism. There are vigorous critiques of pretty much any “feminist” position that has ever been taken. I mean really, for one example, is “feminism,” Catherine MacKinnon or Gayle Rubin? (I love the fact that they’re both tenured at Michigan.) The answer is, of course, both, not that they’d be happy with it.

It’s not critiques that are irritating. It’s ones that don’t seem to be in good faith.

63

PatinIowa 05.26.17 at 4:42 pm

Highly recommended for simple-minded postmodernists, and their simple minded interlocutors.

“Indians”: Textualism, Morality, and the Problem of History
Tompkins, Jane. Critical Inquiry; Chicago13.1 (Fall 1986): 101.

64

Jerry Vinokurov 05.26.17 at 7:25 pm

Also I’m not sure what “legitimately criticize feminism” means? Criticise it as a body of thought? Disagree with some of its contentions? It’s a bit like saying ‘criticise philosophy’ or ‘criticise anti-racism’ or something.

Perhaps Soullite means ‘if it was even possible to legitimately praise patriarchy, I would like to do that’.

This is the question that I always come back to when I read people bemoaning “SJWs” or whatever. Like, what’s the actual criticism you want to make? It’s never specified; there’s just some vague resentment at the idea that women (or black people or LGBT people or pick any subordinate group) might be considered actual human beings, and beyond that, nothing.

65

J-D 05.26.17 at 10:08 pm

PatinIowa

So how do we evaluate someone who presents himself as a serious scholar, observing the decorum of scholarly publication, who, in fact, intends to deceive for political/ideological purposes?

Well, my answer to that question, or at least part of my answer, is ‘By taking into account the facts of the particular case, which would include, among other things, what the particular political/ideological purposes are’.

Some people in this thread seem to believe that feminism, or certain forms of feminist scholarship, are so bad that intentional deception is a legitimate tool against it. I don’t.

Neither do I; this is an example, both on my part and on yours, of taking inot account particular facts, including the particular purposes. I don’t consider ‘seeking a way to discredit feminism’ to be a worthy purpose, and neither (I take it) do you, so we have common ground there as a basis for agreement on an evaluation of an attempt to discredit feminism. But Sokal was not seeking a way to discredit feminism, so that common ground doesn’t help us to agree on an evaluation of his hoax.

And I’m always and everywhere more sympathetic to the lied to than the liar, until, you know, the specific circumstances change my calculation.

I think my position is subtly but crucially different: I’m generally more sympathetic to the deceived than to the deceivers, but my attitude in specific cases will always be affected by other factors.

However, another way of looking at this is that in practice both of us will be more sympathetic to the deceived than to the deceivers in some cases, but not in others; so, if it comes to Sokal’s case, we’re both still facing the question of whether that is one of the cases where we are more sympathetic to the deceived than to the deceivers, or one of the cases where we’re not.

So, for example, if there’s an battered woman in my house, and her drunken abuser is at the door, I’m going to say, “Nope, haven’t seen her.” (BTW, that’s exactly what I did.)

I’ve never actually been in that situation; I hope, and like to think, that I would behave in the same way, and it doesn’t seem to me a practically difficult case, but I know that we can’t always be sure of ourselves until we’ve been tested, as you have and I haven’t. I certainly agree with you about the evaluation; you did the right thing, and if I failed to do so in a similar case it would be just that, a failure.

Is it practically relevant to that particular example that you are, in your words, ‘always and everywhere more sympathetic to the lied to than the liar, until [etc]’?

In any case, Sokal was not attempting to protect battered women from their drunken abusers, so that particular example does not help us to get closer to an evaluaion of his hoax.

66

M Caswell 05.27.17 at 1:24 am

‘So, for example, if there’s an battered woman in my house, and her drunken abuser is at the door, I’m going to say, “Nope, haven’t seen her.” ‘

Or just refuse to let him in. Cf ‘On a Supposed Right to Lie’

https://www.unc.edu/courses/2009spring/plcy/240/001/Kant.pdf

67

Val 05.27.17 at 10:23 am

Jerry Vinukurov @ 64
Yep – when you try to work out what they are complaining about, it seems to be: ‘these subordinate people don’t have a right to complain’.

You could argue with them, if it was clear what they’re complaining about. But I think when you reduce it down to what they’re complaining about, it comes to that – so they can’t say it clearly. (The purpose being to obscure to themselves what they’re saying).

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