Régis Debray, Jean Bricmont

In the Shadow of Lights A Debate between a Philisopher and a Scientist Publication date : September 1, 2003

The first volume of Intellectual Impostures, by Jean Bricmont and Alan Sokal, was a polemical work against post-modern French philosophy. In it they criticised the metaphorical (mis)use of scientific terms in other fields, to lend "authority" to certain arguments. Even before publication, Bricmont and Sokal had sent Régis Debray their criticisms of his use of Gödel’s theorem. There ensued a discussion between Debray and the authors, which Bricmont and Debray pursue here in the form of a lively, fascinating and demanding dialogue. Their discussion focuses on Reason, in all its forms and in every aspect. What is the meaning for us today of the Enlightenment? Of positivism and of the social sciences? How should we envision the revolutions in physics, biology and the neorosciences? What are the future roles of ideology and politics, faced with the challenge of the present religious come-back? Is the notion of progress still relevant? Can a fundamental, universal anthropology be established?
In their discussions, the authors — Debray from a literary point of view, and Bricmont from a scientific one — meet, confront and defy each other. In the course of their talks, they summon theory and practice, past and present, history and current events, facts and their own personal convictions, to give the reader a brilliant lesson against the dominant mood of nihilism.

Régis Debray heads the European Institute of the History and Science of Religion. He is the author of numerous works, including God, An Itinerary.

Jean Bricmont teaches theoretical physics at the University of Louvain. He is the co-author with Alan Sokal of Intellectual Impostures.