The hoax by Peter Boghossian (
@peterboghossian) and James Lindsay ( @GodDoesnt) does a real service in showing up shady intellectual and editorial practices. To that extent I espouse their cause and my own blog contains much analysis of the prevalence of deconcepted jargon and intellectual conformism in Continental philosophy.
FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL
However, a problem is posed by their having, in order to reveal shady intellectual and editorial practices, to commit shady acts themselves. Money talks louder than concepts, nihilism is rampant.
SCIENTISM IS ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM
Many of the people who welcome the hoax are just as deconcepted as their designated enemy, and Boghossian and Lindsay have flattered their prejudices and confirmed them in their unconscious anti-conceptual nihilism.
The hoax is a pharmakon, both medecine and poison. It is based on a diagnosis of a sickness, but the diagnosis is incomplete and the remedy is part of the more englobing sickness and reinforces it rather than curing it.
We are living in a post-truth society, and academic publishing is rife with it. Boghossian and Lindsay wish to denounce this state of affairs by getting theirhoax, that is another lie, published. They seem to think that this is acceptable strategy, as long as they publish their “reveal” after. But in this reveal they do do not tell the truth to their readers, they simply pander to a more ingrained set of deconcepted prejudices, and thus perpetuate the greater lie.
SCIENTISM IS POPULISM
A scientistic Continentally-illiterate pundit, the equivalent of a populist demagogue in this tiny intellectual microcosm, can mouth off stupidly about a field that he is totally ignorant of, and whose concepts, allusions, and arguments he doesn’t understand, where he cannot distinguish a serious contribution from its cynical shadows. Boghossian and Lindsay are comfortable with that. Yet it is a much more widespread problem than the excesses of an already under-appreciated and often denigrated academic field.
WAR BY HOAX
The hoax’s target is not the stated one, its covert aim is part of the hoax within the hoax. Beneath the “critical thinking” advocacy there lies a new avatar of the science wars. The aim is to discredit any project that could recontextualise scientific reason by introducing broader epistemological categories than those of scientism. Boghossian and Lindsay do not give a damn about Gender Studies, otherwise they would try to strengthen its sound elements rather than cast doubt on the field as a whole.
Pluralism is still under attack by scientism. The technique is always the same: focus on the abuses of pluralist arguments and its parodic distortions (postmodernism, relativism, social constructionism) and their cynical exploitation. The fallacy of guilt by association will do the rest.