Making history

October 17, 1997

The most important message from Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont (THES, October 10) is that of the responsibility we academics owe to our students. It is essential that we openly recognise that different intellectual positions are based on different sets of fundamental, and unprovable, assumptions. Having stated our assumptions, we should not cheat in our attempts to build on them.

"Postmodernism" is based on the Marxist assumption that we live in the bad bourgeois society in which all knowledge is constructed to preserve bourgeois hegemony. Most scientists and most historians do not share this assumption, believing that only through the knowledge produced by experiment-based science and source-based history is there any hope of freedom for all humanity, and of serious attacks on the many evils in our complex society. Having given our students full and honest explications, let us leave them to decide which assumptions they find most salient.

Arthur Marwick, History department, Open University

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