Abstract disponibile solo in lingua inglese
This essay, written in honour of J.-G. Merquior, takes its cue from Pareto’s classical question: "Why do people believe so easily in the unbelievable?". Boudon applies the question to the mixture of nihilism and culturalism which imbues postmodernist thinking on hard and soft sciences, art, law and morals. First, he uses examples to illustrate this postmodern intellectual convergence towards nihilism and culturalism. He then goes on to ask whether we really need to believe in such theories, even though they are tremendously influential and, in direct contradiction with their own conclusions, are presented as the Aufhebung (the surpassing and destruction) of all previous theories. Finally, he explores the sociological reasons of their audience, and predicts that they will soon be part of the history not of knowledge but of ideas or, more precisely, of intellectual movements.