Thoughts Around Books (6) From Higher Superstition to Higher Indoctrination

In their 1994 book Higher Superstition, Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt open the fifth chapter, “Auspicating Gender”, with the sentence “American universities have adopted feminism”. Twenty years later, their diagnosis is confirmed and generalised to Canadian universities by a Professor at the University of Ottawa Department of English. Janice Fiamengo has given several talks where she voices her concern about academic feminism. She argues that this academic feminism has largely lost sight of the initial feminist goal of equality under the law, to replace that with the imposition on campus–and, as far as possible, throughout society at large–of a decidedly ideological worldview whereby Western society is inherently biased–and violent–against women, men being the perpetrators of violence and the beneficiaries of an intrinsic privilege.

As an insider, Prof. Fiamengo has a lot to say about the takeover of ideological feminism in humanities Departments and the large-scale politicisation of academia that resulted, about the shabby academic standards of the flagship feminist discipline, Women’s Studies, and about the dreadful state of free speech on campus.

Two particularly good talks of her can be found here and here. Her soft-spoken delivery and unassuming demeanour are praiseworthy.

In the first talk–”Academic Feminism from the Inside”–Prof. Fiamengo gives an alarming picture of on-campus politics. Ideological feminism, she informs us, has seized power to the point where students are forbidden to create groups discussing men’s issues or gender relations outside of the feminist framework. From the professorship to the highest levels of universities’ administrations, she argues,this ideology is dominant and unchallenged. And the consequences are starkly dire, especially for male students. She cites several instances where unsubstantiated rape accusations levelled at male students were enough for the university administration to take drastic–and completely disproportionate measures–against not only the suspects but their wider social circles. These accusations were later proved to be unfounded. She argues that the takeover of ideological feminism in universities means that male students are viewed as an on-campus danger and are often treated as “guilty until proven innocent”. A memorable passage is when she informs us that the assistant Dean of students at Vasser College stated that while she recognised the pain of being falsely accused of rape, she thought facing such false accusations was not really a bad thing as it could help male students reflect along the lines of “If I didn’t violate her, could I have?”.

In the second talk–”What’s Wrong With Women’s Studies?”–Prof. Fiamengo–after giving some arguments against the relevance of the  notion of “patriarchy”–focuses on the academic discipline of Women’s Studies, which she argues is less higher education than higher indoctrination. She contrasts the extremely scrupulous–if not consistently so–examination of women’s issues and gender relations in Western countries of a typical Women’s Studies course to the largely fantasy-based focus of a course on gender in Modern Islam, which, as she instructs us by reading and commenting on the course syllabus, only really discusses the ideals of Islamic societies as to the role of women, with no mention of bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, etc. A byproduct of this discussion is the highlighting of the soft bigotry of lower expectations that humanities teaching seems to apply to Islamic culture. This sheds an interesting light on our contemporary Western political landscape, where people who identify as left-of-centre reliably defend Islam from even moderate critics, while having radically different expectations from Western governments and institutions. The failure of many feminists, especially, to speak out against the conspicuously patriarchal nature of Islamic society, speaks volumes to the prevalence of cultural relativism on the left and within its academic arm. With such a contrast on the content between the two above-mentioned courses, this paradigm seems at least slightly less strange. And as long as this dichotomy remains business as usual in academia, generations of students will become misinformed adults.

Thoughts About Books (6) Gross & Levitt – Higher Superstition

Biologist Paul R. Gross and mathematician Norman Levitt’s 1994 Higher Superstition gives  an alarming picture of the takeover of Social Science and Literature Departments in American universities by highly politicised and intellectually dubious scholarship. Such is the forcefulness with which the authors give their diagnosis that it drove New York University’s mathematical physicist Alan Sokal to put the authors’ claims to the test. And of course that particular episode has had some importance of its own.

Back to Higher Superstition though. At the sight of the book’s subtitle “The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science“, the reader who–unlike me–would be unfamiliar with the target of the book might imagine a very political essay motivated by right-of-centre sentiments. That would be a mistake as the book is rather an attempt to show how political sentiments (here, left-of-centre) often get in the way of serious thinking. It is a stellar book, and its first one hundred or so pages made my Transatlantic flight back from Canada quite fun.

The first chapter in this book is almost eponymous to the subtitle: “The Academic Left and Science”. It is a good summary of the content of the book, and features a particularly memorable passage also noticed by whomever wrote the Wikipedia page on the Sokal affair: after mentioning the “recent” (in 1994) attack by the “academic left” on science’s methods and insights, in which they correctly argue that such an attack could only be worth one’s time if it was formulated by people who do know something about science, Gross and Levitt notice that

It would seem to follow, then, that the last eight or ten years should have seen of flock or earnest humanists and social critics crowding into science and mathematics lecture rooms, the better to arm themselves for the fateful confrontation. This has not happened. A curious fact about the recent left-critique of science is the degree to which its instigators have overcome their former timidity, or indifference towards the subject, not by studying it in detail, but rather by creating a repertoire of rationalizations for avoiding such study. Buoyed by a “stance” on science, they feel justified in bypassing the grubby necessities of actual scientific knowledge. […] The assumption that makes specific knowledge of science dispensable is that certain new-forged intellectual tools […] and, above all, the moral authority with which the academic left emphatically credits itself are in themselves sufficient to guarantee the validity of the critique.

This is one of the central theses of the book, and it is argued for in the following chapters, Not quite in the second chapter though, which is more of an appeal to history. Gross and Levitt argue–and it is not too hard–that the political causes espoused by the academic left can be linked straightforwardly to reactionary, anti-Enlightenment thought of the previous centuries–and even decades. A passage that I think worthy of quotation reads

The dethronement of Western modes of knowledge and their claims to objectivity is said to be justified on a number of grounds. To some, it is the inherent instability and cloudiness of language that does the job. Others appeal to fairly traditional Marxist notions of class consciousness. Feminists champion “women’s ways of knowing”, while Afrocentrists have their own version of the blood-and-soil myth. The important point, however, is that each faction thinks the job is complete and that Western paradigms have been effectively demolished.

Among academics, such attitudes are nowadays extremely common. They are conjoined, however, with other habits of thought characteristic of intellectuals as a class. There is, for instance, an abiding cabalistic faith that excursions into theory, if pursued at great enough length with sufficient intensity, will tease forth all the deepest truths of human experience. This adds considerably to the impression, common outside of academic-left circles, that the “critical theory” in which academic leftists take such delight is a swamp of jargon, name dropping, logic chopping, and massive attempts to obliterate the obvious. The irony is that this faith in the omnicompetence of theory runs particularly strong in those who claim to abhor “totalizing” theories.

Chapters three to seven are what I would call the “bulk chapters”. They detail the case that Gross and Levitt have built against some schools of thought. Chapter three, “The Cultural Construction of Cultural Constructivism”, has a self-explanatory title. Gross and Levitt first distinguish between weak constructivism–which is really simply history or serious sociology–and strong constructivism–which holds science as a social convention like any other. They then focus on the strong form, that of Barry Barnes–who is not mentioned in this book–and David Bloor–who is. The most notable targets of Gross and Levitt’s arguments are Stanley Aronowitz and Bruno Latour. Aronowitz, who was at the time of the book an editor of Social Text, the journal which was to feature Alan Sokal’s hoax article, seems to deserve special treatment in the eyes of Gross and Levitt, who grace the heading of this third chapter with an epigraph of his–”The point is that neither logic nor mathematics escapes the contamination of the social”–and make no mystery of what they think of his book Science As Power:

Aronowitz’s major work is a turgid and opaque tract entitled Science As Power. It constitutes a major attempt to justify the cultural (or social) constructivist viewpoint and is clearly motivated by the belief that since science and technology are key elements in the substructure of modern capitalism, it is one of the duties of the oppositional social critic to demystify science and topple it from its position of reliability and objectivity. The major premise from which this work of demystification proceeds is that science is “situated” knowledge, conditioned by the historical circumstances that engender it and reflective of the ideological patterns of dominance and authority that prevail in the society.

Ambition, however, is one thing and achievement quite another. Aronowitz’s book is notably clumsy in its approach to argument. Its chief method seems to be to invoke from the philosophy of science as many names as possible, in as small a space as possible, and to present their views, as paraphrased by Aronowitz himself, briefly and cryptically, cementing the whole business together, finally, with a wash of the author’s pontifications.

Latour, on the other hand, is shown to be self-contradictory, in his principles as well as in his deeds, as well as more interested in words and concepts than sociological facts.

The book’s fourth chapter “The Realm of Idle Phrases: Postmodernism, Literary Theory, and Cultural Criticism” takes on exactly those three–essentially equivalent–juggernauts which, in turn, are closely related to cultural constructivism. While reading the book, I was even rather surprised that Gross and Levitt did not group cultural constructivism with postmodernism and the other two schools of thought. If I understood correctly, the main distinction is one of the academic Department to which the “academic leftist” belongs: Sociology Departments are the harbour for cultural constructivism, a rather more formal idea which sees science as sustained by political and economic power, while Literature Departments are the general quarters of postmodernism, a more ill-defined notion where the focus is shifted on “language games”. That emphasis on language is beautifully summed up by the following passage, found early in the chapter:

The idea that close attention to the words, tropes, and rhetorical postures of a culture gives one transmutative power over that culture finds acceptance for a number of reasons. First of all, it shifts the game of politics to the home turf of those who by inclination and training are clever with words, disposed to read texts with minute attention and to attend to the higher-order resonances of language. At the same time, it allows scholars of a certain stamp to construe the pursuit of their most arcane interests as a defiantly political act against the repressive structures of society. This is exhilarating: it is radicalism without risk. It does not endanger careers but rather advances them. […]

One startling aspect of postmodernist thought is its belief in its own omnicompetence. It pronounces with supreme confidence on all aspects of human history, politics and culture. […] Postmodernism is, among other things, a device for amplifying the special insights of a narrow area of literary criticism or rhetorical analysis into a methodology for making judgments of the entire cultural spectrum.

Necessarily, this entails intellectual coarseness. The confidence of the postmodern cultural critic is the confidence of a generalizer who excuses himself from many of the usual obligations of erudition. Under this dispensation, a wide variety of disciplines may be addressed and pronounced upon without requiring a detailed familiarity with the facts and logic around which they are organized. A recent article by Heather MacDonald wryly analyzes this phenomenon, which, in its most impudent form, generates scholarly essays that seem to have as their subject everything in general and nothing in particular […].

The rest of the chapter is chiefly devoted to how postmodernists, to different extents, try to make science a language game, a mere metaphor. The interplay with cultural constructivism is apparent throughout, and especially in passages where the authors examine such writings as those of Andrew Ross, who apparently has lamented the relegation of New Age and the “paranormal” to pseudoscience, arguing that this hierarchy is a social construct. And of course, no full-length work on postmodernism and science would be complete without a refutation of the nonsense that has been written on chaos theory. Higher Superstition is no exception, and takes to task Steven Best and N. Katherine Hayles for the frivolity and incompetence with which they wrote about chaos when trying to claim it–a recurring trope–as the best example of “postmodern science”.

I am still impressed that the book’s longest chapter, its fifth one, is the one about feminism. “Auspicating Gender” is a whopping forty-two pages long. With a look at how an authoritarian, ultra-ideological brand of feminism has reached hegemonic status in many humanities Departments–not to say university campuses altogether–in North America (more about that in my next post), one can only praise Gross and Levitt’s visibly large concern as visionary. The immense relevance of their discussion of feminism in 2015, though, seems more due to the fact that feminism’s power grab was already well under way in 1994, rather than to any special foresight on the part of the authors. Gross and Levitt open the chapter with the sentence “American universities have adopted feminism” and spend most of the remainder of the chapter to provide examples for this claim. Their diagnosis of how academic feminism picks a new target–mathematics education is an example they give, a more recent one with which I am familiar is militant secularism in the US–, complains that it is inherently biased and sexist, and proceed to demand that it be made to conform with the dogmas of feminism, is eerily adequate to describe recent events. Write Gross and Levitt:

Metaphor mongering is the principal strategy of much feminist criticism of science. It is invoked to accomplish what analysis of actual ideas will not. “Toward a Feminist Algebra” is a particularly childish example of this […]. The worst thing about this paper […] lies […] in the fact that that the ultimate aim of the authors is not really to advocate devices for improving the mathematical education of women and other disempowered classes. Rather, one finally discovers, the purpose is to justify the use of mathematics classrooms as chapels of feminist orthodoxy. The purpose of the carefully tailored feminist language and imagery is not primarily to build the self-confidence of woman students, but rather to convert problems and examples into parables of feminist rectitude. […] Campbell and Campbell-Wright really want mathematics instructors to act as missionaries for a narrow, self-righteous feminism.

The authors then go on to examine several of many attacks made by academic feminism on the insights of biology. These themes were further explored–among others, by Paul R. Gross himself–in A House Built On Sand.

Chapter six, “The Gates of Eden”, deals with a topic with which I was much less familiar, that of radical ecology. Gross and Levitt expose not only the notorious antiscientific tendencies rife within ecological movements, but also the rather “liberal” approach that is often taken with respect to facts, events and data. Seen from 2015, Gross and Levitt’s insistence that some scientific issues around Earth’s climate change were not settled in 1994 sound a little quaint, but they still make much more sense than any excerpt they reproduce from “deep ecologist” writings. And in the end, their sensible vision is beautifully summed up in the penultimate paragraph of the chapter:

To us, it is self-evident that a 1 percent improvement in the efficiency of photo-voltaic cells, say, is, in environmental terms, worth substantially more than all the utopian eco-babble ever published. In this sense, we are unabashed technocrats, unashamed of the instrumentalism behind such assertions. An accomplishment of this kind will almost certainly not come from the ranks of the ecoradicals, most of whom would, no doubt, denounce it with scorn as a “techno-fix”. Yet technology and the scientific thinking that stands behind it are, for all their vexed history, indispensable tools for providing humankind with a stable environment in which it can live on honorable terms with itself and with nature. The attempts to replace them with phantom visions of global consciousness change or cultural paradigm shift are wrong-headed […].

The last “bulk chapter”–as I’ve called them– is chapter seven, “The Schools of Indictment”. Unlike the previous four chapters, it deals with several, clearly different ideologies. The three main points of focus are AIDS activism, animal rights activism and Afrocentrism. They are rather minor targets when compared to, say, feminism. What makes them interesting is that their relevance is more local, either in time–for AIDS activism, as the epidemic is now largely under control in the West–or in space–for Afrocentrism, which is really only a factor in the US. To see how postmodernist cultural critics pounced on AIDS to make sweeping judgments about the whole of American or even world society is jaw-dropping to say the least. Meanwhile, AIDS activists outside the academia were accusing the US administration of committing a genocide by its supposedly purposeful failure to stop the spread of the virus. As Gross and Levitt point out: “It is painful to call attention to the absurdities of people whose suffering is undeniable”. But the citations they reproduce leave no doubt that many absurdities have been uttered. The space devoted to animal rights is smaller, but still eyebrow-raising sentences abound here. Gross and Levitt know enough about the issue to separate the sound and sane arguments of a Peter Singer–who can here be seen to argue for generalised veganism and clearly comes out as the best debater in the room–from the shrill and hysterical activism seen in some corners of the academic left. The authors argue forcefully for a responsible use of animals in experimental biology, for medical purposes. And insist that the choice is between just that and accepting “life on Earth as it was before science”. Apart from the third choice that they give–experimenting on humans, rather than on animals, for which they do their best to (presumably, coin, and) present some brief arguments–I indeed do not see what else could be done. The topic is then shifted to Afrocentrism, which they argue, using extensive research by anthropologist Bernard Ortiz de Montellano, is as dangerous as it is wrong. Afrocentrism is not content with setting the historical record straight and denouncing the injustice of colonialism, it purports to offer–ideologically driven–new insights in research and education. It goes much further than quaint but well-meaning–if ill-advised and naively pseudotribalistic, or, as Gross and Levitt put it, “mechanistic and unnecessary”– notions that black students might like to know about the–visibly modest–mathematical “achievements” of various African peoples. Rather, it asserts that much of Greek civilisation–and thus, by transitivity, European civilisation–was derived from African civilisations, especially the Egyptian one (incidentally, Afrocentrism seems very insistent on asserting that ancient Egyptians were ethnically similar to today’s citizens of Senegal or Togo, a controversial claim to say the least). Even more egregious claims follow, and a compendium would be an overkill here, but let’s just mention Hunter Adams’ affirmation that the Egyptians commonly used gliders. Near the end of the chapter, Gross and Levitt regret that

All this strongly suggests that even if the universities of this country eventually succeed in developing effective antidotes to the myths of fervent Afrocentrism (and failure to do so will leave many black students in an intellectual ghetto), they will do so without much help from most of the campus left; more than likely, they will have to proceed in the face of its indignant opposition. This may seem an unkind characterization, but the direct evidence, sadly and shamefully, supports it. The experience of Bernard Ortiz de Montellano provides an example. […]

When Ortiz de Montellano and some of his colleagues […] attempted to present a critique of Afrocentric pseudoethnography at a recent meeting of the American Anthropological Association, their proposal was rejected. The tone and manner of this rejection suggest strongly the heavy hand of a new orthodoxy among cultural anthropologists, one that pretends to atone for the putative sins of ethnography during the era of Western imperialism and colonialism by abandoning the “Western” prerogative to judge the narratives of “non-Western” peoples in the light of objective knowledge and scientific methodology.

The penultimate chapter, “Why Do the People Imagine a Vain Thing?”, is a sort of a pre-conclusion. I’ve noted several striking passages, and will focus on one that I find especially important. Here Gross and Levitt note that for all the supposed value-freedom of cultural constructivism and postmodernism, and the supposed empirical or epistemological merits of feminism or Afrocentrism, these worldviews are strongly normative and just about exclusively political:

The natural view–that science gives power to those who understand and underwrite it precisely because it sees accurately into the workings of nature–is, of course correct; but it sorts ill with the temperament of the would-be exorcist. Thus the drive, fragmented and incoherent but energetic, to impeach science not merely as amoral handmaiden of the wickedly powerful but as flawed at its conceptual roots. The moralistic imagination always demands such an iconographic degradation of that from which it wishes to turn away. Science cannot be seen merely as dangerous; it must also be revealed as false in some essential way.

It is actually this moralism, rather than any solid philosophical commonality, that unites the various critiques we have examined. Moralism has the bad intellectual habit of excusing itself, on its own grounds, for weak and shoddy arguments.

In the final chapter, “Does It Matter?”, Gross and Levitt diagnose the low intellectual level of public discourse and the shoddy standards of science education. But, less conventionally, they also reflect on the future (from a 1994 point of view) of academia. They regret the way a fashionably radical posture can help one breeze through one’s career steps and, less conventionally still and more controversially, they go so far as to ask the question of whether science Departments should secede–or look to have humanities Departments do just that–from universities. They might go an inch too far when they suggest that scientists could, if given the time, teach history and philosophy with good competence–I know many who maybe would, and many who probably wouldn’t-but, in the face of the barrage of nonsense that has been coming from actual university professors in the humanities, one can still see their point: a naive and incomplete curriculum would be much better than the feeding of propaganda to students that has been going on in some lecture halls. This question is largely an exercise in fiction–if not fantasy–of course, but when we read that

We know of mathematics departments where the most straightforward pedagogic housekeeping task–that of giving placement exams to insure that students are assigned courses commensurate with their background and ability–is complicated by the insufferable intervention of ideologues, who insist that such tests are inherently “culturally biased” or “gender biased”, an intervention whose probable consequence is to make life miserable for the poor undergraduates who are shoehorned, courtesy of their would-be benefactors, into courses they aren’t ready to handle.

one is ready to reexamine the issue at some length.

Despite its twenty years of age, Higher Superstition is an urgently relevant book today. Rather than receding and hiding in a scholarly corner, the academic left has kept increasing its influence on campuses throughout the United States and its sister country Canada. Dogmatic feminism seems now to be the default ideology not only of university professors and their students in Women’s Studies Departments, but also of universities’ administrative bodies. I intend to get back to this topic in my following post. In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, there is more and more evidence that university campuses have become a platform and a recruiting place for islamists and jihadists. And the academic left, embodied by the National Union of Students, refused to condemn the Islamic State for fear to appear islamophobic.

Thoughts Around Books (5) Postmodern Musea

It’s a staple in expositions where ethnology or even archeology are prominent. Actually, you never don’t read it at some point, when visiting an exposition about lost tribe X or ancient culture Y.

It goes thusly. If, like me, you like to read the texts which invariably sit next to the artifacts, you’ll find yourself reading, at some point, sentences along the lines of

For tribe X, claim F was true

For instance, and I’m making this up entirely: “For the Watokas [fictional tribe name, or so I hope], who lived in what is now Northern Zimbabwe, antelopes were not only a source of food but also the guardian spirits of the tribe and possessors of great knowledge about the past and the future”.

Bad made-up examples aside, claim F invariably runs counter to the most basic standards of scientific literacy. That would not matter if sentences such as

For tribe X, claim F was true


were just syntactic shortcuts. In other words, if, for instance, the person in charge of the text got tired of writing “Claim F was part of the mythology of tribe X” or “According to the religions beliefs of tribe X, claim F was true”, and decided to indulge just once, I would not be writing this. But it is not the case that propositions such as

For tribe X, claim F was true

are used as shortcuts. Rather, they show how succesful and widespread cultural and factual (or global, in the nomenclature of Paul Boghossian) relativism is, at the very least, among people in charge to write such texts. Who are these people? Surely, people with degrees in ethnology or some related field. I find this particularly regrettable. It illustrates once again how patronising cultural relativism is: rather of paying pre-modern cultures and the museum’s visitor the intellectual respect of calling a myth a myth, they muddy the waters with this kind of cultural (in other words, perspectivist) relativism.

The reason why such sentiments are common is obvious, especially when the exposition is about a tribe who was decimated or otherwise oppressed by European armies or settlers in the all-too-recent past. It goes along the lines of “We in the West already caused these people much distress and suffering, sometimes even to the point of genocide and extermination, who are we now to deny the accuracy of their beliefs?”. In other words, it is what Meera Nanda calls “epistemic charity”, one of my favourite locutions.

The problem is that in a sane epistemic system, whether a people is oppressed has strictly nothing to do with the truth or falsity of their mythology. This of course is completely lost on the cultural relativists, as shown for instance in Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom’s Why Truth Matters.

And, to get back to musea, perhaps the worst of it all is that no principle of the sort “Oppressed peoples should have their mythologies treated with irrational respect” is clearly formulated, though it clearly is pervasive in how some museographic texts are written.

This cognitive dissonance is illustrated strikingly at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which I just visited. A large room is devoted to artifacts coming from various Native American tribes (or, as they are known in the official terminology here in Canada, First Nations). These tribes, fortunately, have not gone extinct. It is clearly mentioned that they had a rough couple of centuries and that their cultures deserve to be discovered and admired. But it is all too rarely stated clearly what actually happened to them. How they were driven away from their lands, and sometimes massacred by European armies and settlers. Maybe not to put off the mostly white visitors of the museum. But, instead of being blunt, the people in charge of the exposition were more subtle, suggesting instead of stating the (hopelessly flawed) principle of epistemic charity above, and not having even the guts to clearly present the violent history of the European conquest of North America. As a consequence, the rationally-minded visitor will find himself urged to look at Native American cultures not with the contemporary eye that these still-existing cultures deserve, but with a more patronising eye of lower expectations, that of epistemic charity.

Thoughts About Books (5) Boghossian – Fear of Knowledge

I did not find Paul Boghossian’s writing style particularly easy on the reader, but I did my best to follow his arguments in his short 2006 book Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism. It was worth it.

The usual argument -which Boghossian calls the “traditional argument”- against global relativism (which is the position according to which there are no truly objective facts) is that it is instantly self-defeating. Indeed if it is true that there are no objective facts, then there is one objective fact which is that there are no objective facts and we run in a perfect logical contradiction, while if it is not true that there are no objective facts, global relativism is simply negated.

Boghossian agrees this argument is not to be dismissed by the relativist, but he describes himself as “not impressed” by it, arguing that global relativism could very well be only true relative to some overarching theory upon which both relativists and non-relativists could agree.

I am not sure I am completely won by this line of argument, but it’s a low price to pay for the fantastic dividend it pays: since Paul Boghossian is not very happy about the traditional “self-refutation” point, he goes on to find another flaw in the relativist position.

The relativist position, as mentioned above, asserts that there are no truly objective facts, but facts only determined to be true according to a framework upon which individuals or groups will agree (or disagree). Boghossian’s objection to that paradigm is simple yet brilliant: the adherence or lack thereof of people and groups of people to frameworks is also a type of fact, and there is no sound reason to consider that this type of fact is so completely different from all other types of facts to escape the relativist rule that it cannot be objectively true (or false). Hence, the very wording of the relativist position is unsound. To me, that is really the golden nugget in Fear of Knowledge.