Richard Dawkins has to choose: is he criticising French philosophers like Deleuze and Guattari, or merely wrong-headed Anglophone devotees? The Sokal hoax proves nothing about Deleuze and Guattari’s work, but only about the micro-sociology of the American post-modern humanities industry. There are idiots, cynics, and sincerely deluded people in every field.
No inference can be drawn from the Sokal hoax to the meaningfulness of Deleuze and Guattari’s texts. Such inferences are bad logic. In his review, Dawkins is committing quite knowingly a logical fallacy.
Some people have objected: if Guattari is so clear, why does he need to be elucidated? The answer is that clarity is not universal. It is not an intrinsic property, but a relational matter. What is clear to some readers needs to be explained to others.
That the Sokal piece got published indicates a problem, I agree. I just disagree with the conclusions that Dawkins tries to draw concerning French philosophers. He mixes apples and oranges. Dawkins endorses Sokal’s critique of French philosophy as obscurantist or nonsensical. I try to explain it as neither obscure nor nonsense.
The problem is not principally one of translation. The translations are mostly good. There are a few slips on scientific terminology. The problem is the different cultural and linguistic contexts. You can’t translate both a sentence and its context. The reader has to do a little legwork too.
These last two posts have been quite exhausting. All this effort to explain just one sentence by Guattari. Imagine if I tried to explain a whole article by
@annahm (Anna Hickey-Moody), it would take me years. And I would have to go through the MOTE: massive online trolling experience. A harrowing experience.
Nice article! I am new to this debate but I think the thing that is most disturbing about these matters is the subservience to political ideologies. There is no way these articles would have been published without subscribing to the right political point of view This also makes articles more difficult to criticize and eventually improve the quality of the field. If you attack the author’s ideas then you are attacking a political perspective that is shared by the majority of its practitioners. (See the Lysenco affar).