For, to some extent, Sokal and many in science and beyond felt justified in expressing a weariness for the obfuscation, self-reference and self-reverence evident in the worst excesses of postmodernist discourse, which, while apparently refusing to make absolute judgements, often unquestioningly accepts an underlying political agenda, with its origins in questionably outdated theories influenced by Freud, Marx and Foucault.


To some extent, because Sokal and many in science and other fields wanted to show their disagreement with obfuscation, self-reference, and self-reverence found in the postmodernist discourse; a discourse which, while apparently refusing to make absolute judgements, often accepted an underlying political agenda, an agenda that had origins in outdated theories influenced by Freud, Marx and Foucault."

or does it mean something else?

  • 1
    Although Deadrat's answer does give some valuable context to this incident, I would still say that you parsed well the passage you presented. Jul 10, 2015 at 7:27

2 Answers 2


This passage is from a book called Art and Science by Sîan Ede, a post modernist commentator on the relationship between art and science. Please stop reading this stuff. Postmodernist philosophy, linguistic analysis, and literary criticism is all written in a language of extreme abstraction. Most of it has no meaning that you can discern by examining its vocabulary and syntax. It's possible that the author has some private understanding of these portions, but that is unavailable to you. The parts that you can decipher are mostly wrong, mostly because these authors have no acquaintance with the mathematics and science they claim to have insights about.

In this passage, Ede is discussing a hoax perpetrated in 1996 by Alan Sokal, a professor of mathematics at University College London and professor of physics at New York University. Sokal submitted a paper to a journal called SocialText, a journal of "cultural studies" published by the University of North Carolina Press. In his paper, Sokal deliberately made nonsensical statements about math and science in a parody of the style of meaningless abstraction adopted by the contributors and editors of the journal. SocialText published the paper. After Sokal revealed what he had done in the journal Lingua Franca, he reported one of the editors of SocialText refused to believe the paper was hoax.

In the book you're reading, Ede claims that the editors of SocialText were fooled by the hoax because Sokal's fake paper "supported the prevailing political and cultural orthodoxy of [their] journal." This isn't true. They were duped because they were too ignorant about science to spot the hoax and too lazy to check with reliable sources. They were fooled because they got used to language that seemed to say something profound without saying anything sensible at all.

You may read Sokal's submission to SocialText and the subsequent debate about the paper here.

English has an enormous vocabulary and a flexible syntax that permit of a wide range of expression. But not all of that expression need be meaningful.


The first word, for, does mean because. (It seems to signal that everything in the rest of the sentence provides a cause of something ssid earlier.

You cannot place because after to some extent, without changing the meaning.

To change beyond to other fields, appears to keep the intended meaning in this context, or at least close to it, in this context, but it would be closer to replace and beyond with and outside of science.

Questionably outdated appears to mean possibly outdated. Removing questionably, therefore also results in a change of meaning.

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