a1 Program in History and Philosophy of Science, Stanford University
Theorists of science and culture, seeking to explicate the implications of chaos theory, quantum mechanics, or special and general relativity, have drawn parallels to the constellation of intellectual and social phenomena collected in the concept of postmodernism. The notion thereby invoked of a postmodern physics is suggestive and worth exploring. But it remains ungrounded so long as the argument moves in the realm of parallels. Moreover, these discussions prove to be tacitly constrained by a preexisting genre of physicists' own literary production, a genre whose argumentative structures have been taken over implicitly into the subsequent exchanges. Attending critically in this way to the intellectual interests of the discussants — asking who it is that wants to constitute a postmodern physics — should open up more productive ways of framing the debate.