Degree Granting Department
Stacy Holman Jones, Ph. D.
Communication, Epistemology, Ambiguity, Realism, Relativism
This thesis is a broad survey of the uses of ambiguity in academic discourse. I note the uses of ambiguity in literary criticism, linking ambiguity with epistemic relativism. Then I pose the question, is the notion of "reframing" in psychotherapy analogous to the concept of "spin" in propaganda, advertising and public relations? In a consideration of theories that posit the social construction of reality, I examine articles by Judith Butler and Ian Hacking, noting the ambiguous reception of performativity and nominalism, respectively, within academia. In 1996 a physicist named Alan Sokal published an article which argued that reality is a social and linguistic construct. Sokal later revealed that his article was actually an elaborate spoof of postmodernist and social constructionist writing. According to Sokal, such relativistic discourse erodes the distinction between fact and fiction. I look at the implications of Sokal's hoax for the social sciences and humanities.
Scholar Commons Citation
Lee, David Haldane, "Meaning makers make it: Ambivalence about ambiguity in academic discourse" (2007). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.