Footnotes for "The moral argument for factual realism"

by Alan Sokal, 10 October 2021

  1. Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (Basic Books, New York, 1963), p. 5.
  2. Nicholas Maxwell, How can life of value best flourish in the real world?, in Leemon McHenry, ed., Science and the Pursuit of Wisdom: Studies in the Philosophy of Nicholas Maxwell (Ontos Verlag, Frankfurt, 2009), pp. 1–56: quotation at p. 13.
  3. An extreme example of this hostility to free debate is the practice of some (not all) advocates of gender self-identification (that is, the idea that self-declared gender identity should supplant biological sex for all legal and social purposes) to tar gender-critical feminists (that is, feminists who believe that biological sex matters, at least for some purposes) as TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and transphobes, and even as the (inadvertent) objective allies of fascists. See, for instance, BBC News, Stonewall boss defends new strategy amid criticism, 29 May 2021,; Judith Butler (interview with Jules Gleeson), We need to rethink the category of woman, 7 September 2021, For further background, see Judith Suissa and Alice Sullivan, The gender wars, academic freedom and education, Journal of Philosophy of Education 55(1), 55–82 (2021).
  4. See, for instance, the many citations in Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody (Pitchstone, Durham, North Carolina, 2020).
  5. Kelly Oliver, Keller’s gender/science system: Is the philosophy of science to science as science is to nature?, Hypatia 3(3), 137–148 (1988): quotation at p. 146, emphasis in the original.
  6. Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Intellectual Impostures: Postmodern Philosophers’ Abuse of Science (Profile Books, London, 1998), p. 246.
  7. Of course, the desiderata in these cases are far more complex than simply temperature rise and deaths, respectively. The purpose here is simply to give some examples of the hundreds of factual questions that must be posed — and tentatively answered — as part of any rational social decision-making process.
  8. A full transcript of this speech can be found at; videos of the relevant excerpt can be found at that site and also at