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Paul Feyerabend
Full name Paul Feyerabend
Born January 13, 1924(1924-01-13)
Died February 11, 1994 (aged 70)
Era 20th-century philosophy,
Region Western Philosophy
School Epistemological Anarchism
Main interests Philosophy of science, Critiquing Falsificationism, Epistemology, Politics,
Notable ideas Epistemological anarchism

Paul Karl Feyerabend (January 13, 1924 – February 11, 1994) was an Austrian-born philosopher of science best known for his work as a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he worked for three decades (1958–1989). His life was a peripatetic one, as he lived at various times in England, the United States, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, and finally Switzerland. His major works include Against Method (published in 1975), Science in a Free Society (published in 1978) and Farewell to Reason (a collection of papers published in 1987). Feyerabend became famous for his purportedly anarchistic view of science and his rejection of the existence of universal methodological rules. He is an influential figure in the philosophy of science, and also in the sociology of scientific knowledge.

Contents

Biography

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Early life

Paul Feyerabend was born in 1924 in Vienna, where he attended primary school and high school. In this period he got into the habit of reading a lot, developed an interest in theatre, and started singing lessons. When he graduated from high school in April 1942, he was drafted into the German Arbeitsdienst. After basic training in Pirmasens, Germany, he was assigned to a unit in Quelern en Bas, near Brest (France). Feyerabend described the work he did during that period as monotonous: "we moved around in the countryside, dug ditches, and filled them up again." After a short leave, he joined the army and volunteered for officer school. In his autobiography, he wrote that he hoped the war would be over by the time he had finished his education as an officer. This turned out not to be the case. From December 1943 on, he served as an officer on the northern part of the Eastern Front, was decorated with an Iron cross, and attained the rank of lieutenant. After the German army started its retreat from the advancing Red army, Feyerabend was hit by three bullets while directing traffic. It turned out that one of the bullets had hit him in the spine. As a consequence of this, he needed to walk with a stick for the rest of his life and frequently experienced severe pains. He spent the rest of the war recovering from his injuries.

Post–WWII and university

When the war was over, Feyerabend first got a temporary job in Apolda where he wrote pieces for the theatre. He was influenced by the Marxist playwright Bertold Brecht and was invited by Brecht to be his assistant at the East Berlin State Opera but turned down the offer. Feyerabend took various classes at the Weimar Academy, and returned to Vienna to study History and Sociology. He became dissatisfied, however, and soon transferred to Physics, where he met Felix Ehrenhaft, a physicist whose experiments would influence his later views on the nature of science. Feyerabend changed the subject of his study to philosophy and submitted his final thesis on observation sentences. In his autobiography, he described his philosophical views during this time as "staunchly empiricist". In 1948 he visited the first meeting of the international summer seminar of the Austrian College Society in Alpbach. This was the place where Feyerabend first met Karl Popper, who had a "positive" (early Popper), as well as "negative" (later Popper) effect on him. In 1951, Feyerabend was granted a British Council scholarship to study under Wittgenstein. However, Wittgenstein died before Feyerabend moved to England. Feyerabend then chose Popper as his supervisor instead, and went to study at the London School of Economics in 1952. In his autobiography, Feyerabend explains that during this time, he was influenced by Popper: "I had fallen for [Popper's ideas]". After that, Feyerabend returned to Vienna and was involved in various projects; a translation of Karl Popper's Open Society and its Enemies, a report on the development of the humanities in Austria, and several articles for an encyclopedia.

Academia

In 1955, Feyerabend received his first academic appointment at the University of Bristol, England, where he gave lectures about the Philosophy of science. Later in his life he worked as a professor (or equivalent) at Berkeley, Auckland, Sussex, Yale, London, Berlin and Zurich. During this time, he developed a critical view of science, which he later described as 'anarchistic' or 'dadaistic' to illustrate his rejection of the dogmatic use of rules, a position incompatible with the contemporary rationalistic culture in the philosophy of science. At the London School of Economics, Feyerabend met a colleague of K.R. Popper, Imre Lakatos with whom he planned to write a dialogue volume in which Lakatos would defend a rationalist view of science and Feyerabend would attack it. This planned joint publication was put to an end by Lakatos's sudden death in 1974. Against Method became a famous criticism of current philosophical views of science and provoked many reactions. There is passion and energy in his writings unequalled by other philosophers of science, something which, in his autobiography, he reveals came at great cost to himself:

The depression stayed with me for over a year; it was like an animal, a well-defined, spatially localizable thing. I would wake up, open my eyes, listen -- Is it here or isn't? No sign of it. Perhaps it's asleep. Perhaps it will leave me alone today. Carefully, very carefully, I get out of bed. All is quiet. I go to the kitchen, start breakfast. Not a sound. TV - Good Morning America -, David What's-his-name, a guy I can't stand. I eat and watch the guests. Slowly the food fills my stomach and gives me strength. Now a quick excursion to the bathroom, and out for my morning walk - and here she is, my faithful depression: "Did you think you could leave without me?"
From his autobiography, Killing Time
Feyerabend later in life

Feyerabend moved to the University of California, Berkeley in California in 1958 and became a U.S. citizen. Following (visiting) professorships (or their equivalent) at London, Berlin, and Yale, he taught at the University of Auckland, New Zealand in 1972 and 1974, always returning to California. He later enjoyed alternating between posts at ETH Zurich and Berkeley through the 1980s but left Berkeley for good in October 1989, first to Italy, then finally to Zurich. After his retirement in 1991, Feyerabend continued to publish frequent papers and worked on his autobiography. After a short period of suffering from a brain tumor, he died in 1994 at the Genolier Clinic, overlooking Lake Geneva, Switzerland.

Thought

Philosophy of science

Nature of scientific method

In his books Against Method and Science in a Free Society Feyerabend defended the idea that there are no methodological rules which are always used by scientists. He objected to any single prescriptive scientific method on the grounds that any such method would limit the activities of scientists, and hence restrict scientific progress. In his view, science would benefit most from a "dose" of theoretical anarchism. He also thought that theoretical anarchism was desirable because it was more humanitarian than other systems of organization, by not imposing rigid rules on scientists.

For is it not possible that science as we know it today, or a "search for the truth" in the style of traditional philosophy, will create a monster? Is it not possible that an objective approach that frowns upon personal connections between the entities examined will harm people, turn them into miserable, unfriendly, self-righteous mechanisms without charm or humour? "Is it not possible," asks Kierkegaard, "that my activity as an objective [or critico-rational] observer of nature will weaken my strength as a human being?" I suspect the answer to many of these questions is affirmative and I believe that a reform of the sciences that makes them more anarchic and more subjective (in Kierkegaard's sense) is urgently needed. Against Method. p. 154.  

Feyerabend's position was originally seen as radical in the philosophy of science, because it implies that philosophy can neither succeed in providing a general description of science, nor in devising a method for differentiating products of science from non-scientific entities like myths. (Feyerabend's position also implies that philosophical guidelines should be ignored by scientists, if they are to aim for progress.)

To support his position that methodological rules generally do not contribute to scientific success, Feyerabend provides counterexamples to the claim that (good) science operates according to a certain fixed method. He took some examples of episodes in science that are generally regarded as indisputable instances of progress (e.g. the Copernican revolution), and showed that all common prescriptive rules of science are violated in such circumstances. Moreover, he claimed that applying such rules in these historical situations would actually have prevented scientific revolution.

One of the criteria for evaluating scientific theories that Feyerabend attacks is the consistency criterion. He points out that to insist that new theories be consistent with old theories gives an unreasonable advantage to the older theory. He makes the logical point that being compatible with a defunct older theory does not increase the validity or truth of a new theory over an alternative covering the same content. That is, if one had to choose between two theories of equal explanatory power, to choose the one that is compatible with an older, falsified theory is to make an aesthetic, rather than a rational choice. The familiarity of such a theory might also make it more appealing to scientists, since they will not have to disregard as many cherished prejudices. Hence, that theory can be said to have "an unfair advantage".

Feyerabend was also critical of falsificationism. He argued that no interesting theory is ever consistent with all the relevant facts. This would rule out using a naïve falsificationist rule which says that scientific theories should be rejected if they do not agree with known facts. Feyerabend uses several examples, but "renormalization" in quantum mechanics provides an example of his intentionally provocative style: "This procedure consists in crossing out the results of certain calculations and replacing them by a description of what is actually observed. Thus one admits, implicitly, that the theory is in trouble while formulating it in a manner suggesting that a new principle has been discovered" Against Method. p. 61.  . Such jokes are not intended as a criticism of the practice of scientists. Feyerabend is not advocating that scientists do not make use of renormalization or other ad hoc methods. Instead, he is arguing that such methods are essential to the progress of science for several reasons. One of these reasons is that progress in science is uneven. For instance, in the time of Galileo, optical theory could not account for phenomena that were observed by means of telescopes. So, astronomers who used telescopic observation had to use ad hoc rules until they could justify their assumptions by means of optical theory.

Feyerabend was critical of any guideline that aimed to judge the quality of scientific theories by comparing them to known facts. He thought that previous theory might influence natural interpretations of observed phenomena. Scientists necessarily make implicit assumptions when comparing scientific theories to facts that they observe. Such assumptions need to be changed in order to make the new theory compatible with observations. The main example of the influence of natural interpretations that Feyerabend provided was the tower argument. The tower argument was one of the main objections against the theory of a moving earth. Aristotelians assumed that the fact that a stone which is dropped from a tower lands directly beneath it shows that the earth is stationary. They thought that, if the earth moved while the stone was falling, the stone would have been "left behind". Objects would fall diagonally instead of vertically. Since this does not happen, Aristotelians thought that it was evident that the earth did not move. If one uses ancient theories of impulse and relative motion, the Copernican theory indeed appears to be falsified by the fact that objects fall vertically on earth. This observation required a new interpretation to make it compatible with Copernican theory. Galileo was able to make such a change about the nature of impulse and relative motion. Before such theories were articulated, Galileo had to make use of ad hoc methods and proceed counterinductively. So, "ad hoc" hypotheses actually have a positive function: they temporarily make a new theory compatible with facts until the theory to be defended can be supported by other theories.

Feyerabend commented on the Galileo affair as follows:

The church at the time of Galileo was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo's doctrine. Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just, and revisionism can be legitimized solely for motives of political opportunism.[1][2][3]

Together these remarks sanction the introduction of theories that are inconsistent with well-established facts. Furthermore, a pluralistic methodology that involves making comparisons between any theories at all forces defendants to improve the articulation of each theory. In this way, scientific pluralism improves the critical power of science. Feyerabend was later quoted to this effect by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.[4]

According to Feyerabend, new theories came to be accepted not because of their accord with scientific method, but because their supporters made use of any trick – rational, rhetorical or ribald – in order to advance their cause. Without a fixed ideology, or the introduction of religious tendencies, the only approach which does not inhibit progress (using whichever definition one sees fit) is "anything goes": "'anything goes' is not a 'principle' I hold... but the terrified exclamation of a rationalist who takes a closer look at history." (Feyerabend, 1975).

Feyerabend considered the possibility of incommensurability, but he was hesitant in his application of the concept. He wrote that "it is hardly ever possible to give an explicit definition of [incommensurability]" Against Method. p. 225.  , because it involves covert classifications and major conceptual changes. He also was critical of attempts to capture incommensurability in a logical framework, since he thought of incommensurability as a phenomenon outside the domain of logic. In the second appendix of Against Method (p. 114), Feyerabend states, "I never said... that any two rival theories are incommensurable... What I did say was that certain rival theories, so-called 'universal' theories, or 'non-instantial' theories, if interpreted in a certain way, could not be compared easily." Incommensurability did not concern Feyerabend greatly, because he believed that even when theories are commensurable (i.e. can be compared), the outcome of the comparison should not necessarily rule out either theory. To rephrase: when theories are incommensurable, they cannot rule each other out, and when theories are commensurable, they cannot rule each other out. Assessments of (in)commensurability, therefore, don't have much effect in Feyerabend's system, and can be more or less passed over in silence.

In Against Method Feyerabend claimed that Imre Lakatos's philosophy of research programmes is actually "anarchism in disguise", because it does not issue orders to scientists. Feyerabend playfully dedicated Against Method to "Imre Lakatos: Friend, and fellow-anarchist". One interpretation is that Lakatos's philosophy of mathematics and science was based on creative transformations of Hegelian historiographic ideas, many associated with Lakatos's teacher in Hungary Georg Lukács. Feyerabend's debate with Lakatos on scientific method recapitulates the debate of Lukács and (Feyerabend's would-be mentor) Brecht, over aesthetics several decades earlier.

The rationalist philosopher and popular essayist David Stove claimed that in his philosophical work Feyerabend was responsible for the "sabotaging of logical expressions".[5] This was the practise of robbing logical statements of their logical force by placing them in epistemic contexts; for example, instead of saying "P is a proof for Q" one would say "It is generally believed by scientists that P is a proof for Q". This produces what Stove calls a "ghost logical statement": it gives the impression that serious statements of logic are being made when they are not - all that is really being made are sociological or historical claims which are immune to criticism on logical grounds.

The decline of the physicist-philosopher

Feyerabend was critical of the lack of knowledge of philosophy shown by the generation of physicists that emerged after WWII:

The withdrawal of philosophy into a "professional" shell of its own has had disastrous consequences. The younger generation of physicists, the Feynmans, the Schwingers, etc., may be very bright; they may be more intelligent than their predecessors, than Bohr, Einstein, Schrodinger, Boltzmann, Mach and so on. But they are uncivilized savages, they lack in philosophical depth -- and this is the fault of the very same idea of professionalism which you are now defending.[6]

Role of science in society

Feyerabend described science as being essentially anarchistic, obsessed with its own mythology, and as making claims to truth well beyond its actual capacity. He was especially indignant about the condescending attitudes of many scientists towards alternative traditions. For example, he thought that negative opinions about astrology and the effectivity of rain dances were not justified by scientific research, and dismissed the predominantly negative attitudes of scientists towards such phenomena as elitist or racist. In his opinion, science has become a repressing ideology, even though it arguably started as a liberating movement. Feyerabend thought that a pluralistic society should be protected from being influenced too much by science, just as it is protected from other ideologies.

Starting from the argument that a historical universal scientific method does not exist, Feyerabend argues that science does not deserve its privileged status in western society. Since scientific points of view do not arise from using a universal method which guarantees high quality conclusions, he thought that there is no justification for valuing scientific claims over claims by other ideologies like religions. Feyerabend also argued that scientific accomplishments such as the moon landings are no compelling reason to give science a special status. In his opinion, it is not fair to use scientific assumptions about which problems are worth solving in order to judge the merit of other ideologies. Additionally, success by scientists has traditionally involved non-scientific elements, such as inspiration from mythical or religious sources.

Based on these arguments, Feyerabend defended the idea that science should be separated from the state in the same way that religion and state are separated in a modern secular society ( Against Method (3rd ed.). p. 160.  ). He envisioned a "free society" in which "all traditions have equal rights and equal access to the centres of power" ( Science in a Free Society. p. 9.  ). For example, parents should be able to determine the ideological context of their children's education, instead of having limited options because of scientific standards. According to Feyerabend, science should also be subjected to democratic control: not only should the subjects that are investigated by scientists be determined by popular election, scientific assumptions and conclusions should also be supervised by committees of lay people. He thought that citizens should use their own principles when making decisions about these matters. He rejected the view that science is especially "rational" on the grounds that there is no single common "rational" ingredient which unites all the sciences but excludes other modes of thought ( Against Method (3rd ed.). p. 246.  ).

Philosophy of mind

Along with a number of mid-20th century philosophers (most notably, Wilfred Sellars, W.V.O. Quine, and Richard Rorty), Feyerabend was influential in the development of eliminative materialism, a radical position in the philosophy of mind that holds that our ordinary, common-sense understanding of the mind (folk psychology) is false. It is succinctly described by a modern proponent, Paul Churchland, as follows: "Eliminative materialism is the thesis that our commonsense conception of psychological phenomena constitutes a radically false theory, a theory so fundamentally defective that both the principles and the ontology of that theory will eventually be displaced, rather than smoothly reduced, by completed neuroscience."[7]

In three short papers published in the early sixties[8][9][10], Feyerabend sought to defend materialism against the supposition that the mind cannot be a physical thing. Feyerabend suggested that our commonsense understanding of the mind was incommensurable with the (materialistic) scientific view, but that nevertheless we ought to prefer the materialistic one on general methodological grounds.

This view of the mind/body problem is widely considered one of Feyerabend's most important legacies. Even though Feyerabend himself seems to have given it up in the late 1970s, it was taken up by Richard Rorty and, more recently, by Patricia Churchland and Paul Churchland. In fact, as Keeley observes[11], "PMC [Paul Churchland] has spent much of his career carrying the Feyerabend mantle forward" (p. 13).

Other works

Some of Feyerabend's work concerns the way in which people's perception of reality is influenced by various rules. In his last book, unfinished when he died, he talks of how our sense of reality is shaped and limited. Conquest of Abundance: A Tale of Abstraction versus the Richness of Being bemoans the propensity we have of institutionalizing these limitations.

Popular influence

The book On the Warrior's Path quotes Feyerabend, highlighting the similarities between his epistemology and Bruce Lee's worldview.[12]

Selected bibliography

Books

  • Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975), ISBN 0-391-00381-X, ISBN 0-86091-222-1, ISBN 0-86091-481-X, ISBN 0-86091-646-4, ISBN 0-86091-934-X, ISBN 0-902308-91-2
  • Science in a Free Society (1978), ISBN 0-8052-7043-4
  • Realism, Rationalism and Scientific Method: Philosophical papers, Volume 1 (1981), ISBN 0-521-22897-2, ISBN 0-521-31642-1
  • Problems of Empiricism: Philosophical Papers, Volume 2 (1981), ISBN 0-521-23964-8, ISBN 0-521-31641-3
  • Farewell to Reason (1987), ISBN 0-86091-184-5, ISBN 0-86091-896-3
  • Three Dialogues on Knowledge (1991), ISBN 0-631-17917-8, ISBN 0-631-17918-6
  • Killing Time: The Autobiography of Paul Feyerabend (1995), ISBN 0-226-24531-4, ISBN 0-226-24532-2
  • Conquest of Abundance: A Tale of Abstraction versus the Richness of Being (1999), ISBN 0-226-24533-0, ISBN 0-226-24534-9
  • Knowledge, Science and Relativism: Philosophical Papers, Volume 3 (1999), ISBN 0-521-64129-2
  • For and Against Method: Including Lakatos's Lectures on Scientific Method and the Lakatos-Feyerabend Correspondence with Imre Lakatos (1999), ISBN 0-226-46774-0, ISBN 0-226-46775-9

Articles

  • "Linguistic Arguments and Scientific Method". TELOS 03 (Spring 1969). New York: Telos Press
  • "How To Defend Society Against Science". Radical Philosophy no. 11, Summer 03 1975. [1]

See also

References

  1. ^ Ratzinger (1994, p.98); "Papal visit scuppered by scholars". BBC News. 2008-01-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7188860.stm.  
  2. ^ The Death of Irony: Benedict and the Enemies of Reason Feb. 3, 2008
  3. ^ The Messy Relationship Between Religion and Science: Revisiting Galileo's Inquisition 2008
  4. ^ Understanding Feyerabend on Galileo
  5. ^ Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists, 1982
  6. ^ For and Against Method. The comments appeared in a 1969 letter to Feyerabend's Berkeley philosophy chair Wallace Matson, which is reproduced in Appendix B of the book.
  7. ^ Churchland, P. M. (1989). A neurocomputational perspective: the nature of mind and the structure of science. Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press (A Bradford Book).
  8. ^ Feyerabend, P. K. (1962). "Explanation, reduction, and empiricism." Minnesota studies in the philosophy of science: Scientification explanation, space and time. H. Feigl and G. maxwell (Eds.) Minneapolis. Volume 3: 28-97.
  9. ^ Feyerabend, P. K. (1963a). "Materialism and the mind-body problem." Review of Metaphysics 17: 49-66.
  10. ^ Feyerabend, P. K. (1963b). "Mental events and the brain." The Journal of Philosophy LX: 11.
  11. ^ Brian L. Keeley. (2006). Paul Churchland. "Introduction: Becoming Paul Churchland". B. L. Keeley (Ed.) Cambridge University Press: 1-31.
  12. ^ Daniele Bolelli (2008): On the Warrior's Path - Philosophy, Fighting, and Martial Arts Mythology. Second Edition, Berkeley: Blue Snake Books: p. 153-184, esp. 171-177

Further reading

  • Daniele Bolelli, "On the Warrior's Path: Philosophy, Fighting, and Martial Arts Mythology", Frog Books (2003), ISBN 1583940669
  • Gonzalo Munévar, Beyond Reason: Essays on the Philosophy of Paul Feyerabend, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science (1991), ISBN 0-792-31272-4
  • John Preston, Gonzalo Munévar and David Lamb (ed.), The Worst Enemy of Science? Essays in memory of Paul Feyerabend (2000), ISBN 0-195-12874-5
  • John Preston, Feyerabend: Philosophy, Science and Society (1997), ISBN 0-745-61675-5, ISBN 0-745-61676-3

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Paul Karl Feyerabend article)

From Wikiquote

At all times man approached his surroundings with wide open senses and a fertile intelligence, at all times he made incredible discoveries, at all times we can learn from his ideas.

Paul Feyerabend (January 13, 1924February 11, 1994) was a philosopher of science, professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He maintained a peripatetic life, as he lived at various times in England, the United States, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, and finally Switzerland. Feyerabend became famous for his purportedly anarchistic view of science, his bitingly critical prose on the prevailing scientific philosophies, and his rejection of the existence of universal methodological rules. He is an influential figure in the philosophy of science, and also in the sociology of scientific knowledge.

Contents

Sourced

Against Method (1975)

there is only one principle that can be defended under all circumstances and in all stages of human development. It is the principle: anything goes.
  • One can show the following: given any rule, however "fundamental" or "necessary" for science, ther are always circumstances when it is advisable not only to ignore the rule, but to adopt its opposite.
    • Pg. 23
  • It is clear, then, that the idea of a fixed method, or of a fixed theory or rationality, rests on too naive a view of man and his social surroundings. To those who look at the rich material provided by history, and who are not intent on impoverishing it in order to please their lower instincts, their craving for intellectual security in the for of clarity, precision, "objectivity", "truth", it will become clear that there is only one principle that can be defended under all circumstances and in all stages of human development. It is the principle: anything goes.
    • Pg. 27 & 28, italics are Feyerabend's
  • Without a constant misuse of language, there cannot be any discovery, any progress.
    • pg. 27
  • My intention is not to replace one set of general rules by another such set: my intention is, rather, to convince the reader that all methodologies, even the most obvious ones, have their limits. The best way to show this is to demonstrate the limits and even the irrationality of some rules which she, or he, is likely to regard as basic. In the case that induction (including induction by falsification) this means demonstrating how well the counterinductive procedure can be supported by argument.
    • pg. 32, Italics are Feyerabend's
  • The separation of state and church must be complemented by the separation of state and science, that most recent, most aggressive, and most dogmatic religious institution.
    • pg 295
the semblance of absolute truth is nothing but absolute conformism.
  • [On Empiricism ] It is evident, on the basis of our considerations, that this appearance of success cannot in the least be regarded as a sign of truth and correspondence with nature. Quite the contrary, suspicion arises that the absence of major difficulties is a result of the decrease of empirical content brought about by the elimination of alternatives, and of facts that can be discovered with their help. In other words, the suspicion arises that this alleged success is due to the fact that the theory, when extended beyond its starting point, was turned into rigid ideology. Such Ideology is "successful" not because it agrees so well with the facts; it is successful because no facts have been specified that could constitute a test, and because some such facts have been removed. Its "success" is entirely man-made. It was decided to stick to some ideas, come what may, and the result was, quite naturally, the survival of these ideas. If now the initial decision is forgotten, or made only implicitly, for example, if it becomes common law in physics, then the survival itself will seem to constitute independent support., it will reinforce the decision, or turn it into an explicate one, and in this way close the circle. This is how empirical "evidence" may be created by a procedure which quotes as its justification the very same evidence it has Produced.
    • Pg. 43 & 44
  • [continued conjecture on empiricism] At this point an "empirical" theory of the kind described becomes almost indistinguishable from a second-rate myth. In order to realize this, we need only consider a myth such as the myth of witchcraft and of demonic possession that was developed by the Roman Catholic theologians and that dominated 15th-, 16th- and 17th-century thought on the European continent. This myth is a complex explanatory system that contains numerous auxiliary hypotheses designed to cover special cases, so it easily achieves a high degree of confirmation on the basis of observation. It has been taught for a long time; its content is enforced by fear, prejudice, and ignorance, as well as by a jealous and cruel priesthood. Its ideas penetrate the most common idiom, infect all modes of thinking and many decisions which meana great deal in human life. It provides models for the explanation of an conceivable event - Conceivable, that is, for those who have accepted it. This being the case, its key terms will be fixed in an unambiguous manner and the idea (which may have led to such a procedure in the first place) that they are copies of unchanging entities and that change of meaning, if it should happen, is due to human mistake - This idea will now be very plausible. Such plausibility reinforces all the manoeuvres which are used for the preservation of the myth (elimination of opponents included). The Conceptual apparatus of the theory and the emotions connected with its application, having penetrated all means of communication, all actions, and indeed the whole life of the community, now guarantees the success of methods such as transcendental deduction, analysis of usage, phenomenological analysis - which are means for further solidifying the myth... At the same time it is evident that all contact with the world is lost and the stability achieved, the semblance of absolute truth is nothing but absolute conformism. For how can we possibly test, or improve upon the truth of a theory if it is built in such a manner then any conceivable event can be described, and explained, in terms of its principles? The only way of investigating such all-embracing principles would be to compare them with a different set of equally all embracing principles- but this procedure has been excluded from the very beginning.
    • Pg 44&45
Taking experimental results and observations for granted and putting the burden of proof on the theory means taking the observational ideology for granted without having ever examined it.
  • Progress was often achieved by a "criticism from the past"... After Aristotle and Ptolemy, the idea that the earth moves - that strange, ancient, and "entirely ridiculous", Pythagorean view was thrown on the rubbish heap of history, only to be revived by Copernicus and to be forged by him into a weapon for the defeat of its defeaters. The Hermetic writings played an important part in this revival, which is still not sufficiently understood, and they were studied with care by the great Newton himself. Such developments are not surprising. No idea is ever examined in all its ramifications and no view is ever given all the chances it deserves. Theories are abandoned and superseded by more fashionable accounts long before they have had an opportunity to show their virtues. Besides, ancient doctrines and "primitive" myths appear strange and nonsensical only because their scientific content is either not known, or is distorted by philologists or anthropologists unfamiliar with the simplest physical, medical or astronomical knowledge.
    • Pg 48
Science is an essentially anarchic enterprise: theoretical anarchism is more humanitarian and more likely to encourage progress than its law-and-order alternatives.
  • [Responding to criticism from Dr. Hesse] Voodoo, Dr Hesse's piece de risistance', is case in point. Nobody knows it, everybody uses it as a paradigm of backwardness and confusion. And yet Voodoo has a firm though still not sufficiently understood material basis, and a study of its manifestations can be used to enrich, and perhaps even revise, our knowledge of physiology.
    • Pg. 50
  • Not only are facts and theories in constant disharmony, they are never as neatly separated as everyone makes them out to be.
    • Pg. 66
  • The material which a scientist actually has at his disposal, his laws, his experimental results, his mathematical techniques, his epistemological prejudices, his attitude towards the absurd consequences of the theories which he accepts, is indeterminate in many ways, ambiguous, and never fully separated from the historical background. This material is always contaminated by principles which he does not know and which, if known, would be extremely hard to test.
    • Pg. 66
  • Taking experimental results and observations for granted and putting the burden of proof on the theory means taking the observational ideology for granted without having ever examined it.
    • Pg. 67
  • Now - how can we possibly examine something we use all the time and presuppose in every statement? How can we criticize the terms in which we habitually express our observations? Let us see! The first step in our criticism of commonly-used concepts is to create a measure of criticism, something with which these concepts can be compared. Of course, we shall later want to know a little more about the measuring stick itself; for example, we shall want to know whether it is better than, or perhaps not as good as, the material examined. But in order for this examination to start there must be a measuring-stick in the first place. Therefore, the first step in our criticism of customary concepts and customary reactions is to step outside the circle and either to invent a new conceptual system, for example a new theory, that clashes with the most carefully established observational results and confounds with the most plausible theoretical principles, or to import such a system from outside science, from religion, from mythology , from the ideas of incompetents, or the ramblings of madmen. This step is, again, counter-inductive, Counter-induction is thus both a fact' - science could not exist without it - and a legitimate and much needed move in the game of science.
    • Pg 68
  • Science is an essentially anarchic enterprise: theoretical anarchism is more humanitarian and more likely to encourage progress than its law-and-order alternatives.
    • pg 9
Most scientists today are devoid of ideas, full of fear, intent on producing some paltry result so that they can add to the flood of inane papers that now constitutes "scientific progress" in many areas.
  • The ideas survived and they can now be said to be in agreement with reason. They survived because prejudice, passion, conceit, errors, sheer pigheadedness, in short because all the elements that characterize the context of discovery, opposed the dictates of reason and because these irrational elements were permitted to have their way. To express it differently: Copernicanism and other "rational" views exist today only because reason was overruled at some time in their past. (The opposite is also true: witchcraft and other "irrational" views had ceased to be influential only because reason was overruled at some time in their past.)
    • Pg. 155
  • Naive falsificationism takes it for granted that the laws of nature are manifest an not hidden beneath disturbances of considerable magnitude. Empiricism takes it for granted that sense experience is a better mirror of the world than pure thought. Praise of argument takes it for granted that the artifices of Reason give better results than the unchecked play of our emotions. Such assumptions may be perfectly plausible and even true. Still, one should occasionally put them to a test. Putting them to a test means that we stop using the methodology associated with them, start doing science in a different way and see what happens.
    • Pg 295-296
We have to realize that a unified theory of the physical world simply does not exist
  • Is it not a fact that a learned physician is better equipped to diagnose and to cure an illness than a layman or the medicine-man of a primitive society? Is it not a fact that epidemics and dangerous individual diseases have disappeared only with the beginning of modern medicine? Must we not admit that technology has made tremendous advances since the rise of modern science? And are not the moon-shots a most and undeniable proof of its excellence? These are some of the questions which are thrown at the impudent wretch who dares to criticize the special positions of the sciences. The questions reach there polemical aim only if one assumes that the results of science which no one will deny have arisen without any help from non-scientific elements, and that they cannot be improved by an admixture of such elements either. "Unscientific" procedures such as the herbal lore of witches and cunning men, the astronomy of mystics, the treatment of the ill in primitive societies are totally without merit. Science alone gives us a useful astronomy, an effective medicine, a trustworthy technology. One must also assume that science owes its success to the correct method and not merely to a lucky accident. It was not a fortunate cosmological guess that led to progress, but the correct and cosmologically neutral handling of data. These are the assumptions we must make to give the questions of the polemical force the are supposed to have. Not a single one of them stands up to a closer examination.
    • Pg. 304
  • Combining this observation with the insight that science has no special method, we arrive at the result that the separation of science and non-science is not only artificial but also detrimental to the advancement of knowledge. If we want to understand nature, if we want to master our physical surroundings, then we must use all ideas, all methods, and not just a small selection of them. The assertion, however, that there is no knowledge outside science - extra scientiam nulla salus - is nothing but another and most convenient fairy-tale. Primitive tribes has more detailed classifications of animals and plant than contemporary scientific zoology and botany, they know remedies whose effectiveness astounds physicians (while the pharmaceutical industry already smells here a new source of income), they have means of influencing their fellow men which science for a long time regarded as non-existent (voodoo), they solve difficult problems in ways which are still not quite understood (building of the pyramids; Polynesian travels), there existed a highly developed and internationally known astronomy in the old Stone Age, this astronomy was factually adequate as well as emotionally satisfying, it solved both physical and social problems (one cannot say the same about modern astronomy) and it was tested in very simple and ingenious ways (stone observatories in England and in the South Pacific; astronomical schools in Polynesia - for a more details treatment an references concerning all these assertions cf. my Einfuhrung in die Naturphilosophie). There was the domestication of animals, the invention of rotating agriculture, new types of plants were bred and kept pure by careful avoidance of cross fertilization, we have chemical inventions, we have a most amazing art that can compare with the best achievement of the present. True, there were no collective excursions to the moon, but single individuals, disregarding great dangers to their should and their sanity, rose from sphere to sphere to sphere until they finally faced God himself in all His splendor while others changed into animals and back into humans again. At all times man approached his surroundings with wide open senses and a fertile intelligence, at all times he made incredible discoveries, at all times we can learn from his ideas.
    • Pg. 306-307
The sciences of today are business enterprises run on business principles. Research in large institutes is not guided by Truth and Reason but by the most rewarding fashion, and the great minds of today increasingly turn to where the money is.
  • Unanimity of opinion may be fitting for a church, for the frightened or greedy victims of some (ancient, or modern) myth, or for the weak and willing followers of some tyrant. Variety of opinion is necessary for objective knowledge. And a method that encourages variety is also the only method that is comparable with a humanitarian outlook.
    • pg 46

How To Defend Society Against Science (1975)

  • I want to defend society and its inhabitants from all ideologies, science included. All ideologies must be seen in perspective. One must not take them too seriously. One must read them like fairy-tales which have lots of interesting things to say but which also contain wicked lies, or like ethical prescriptions which may be useful rules of thumb but which are deadly when followed to the letter.
The separation of state and church must be complemented by the separation of state and science, that most recent, most aggressive, and most dogmatic religious institution.
  • Scientific "facts" are taught at a very early age and in the very same manner in which religious "facts" were taught only a century ago. There is no attempt to waken the critical abilities of the pupil so that he may be able to see things in perspective. At the universities the situation is even worse, for indoctrination is here carried out in a much more systematic manner. Criticism is not entirely absent. Society, for example, and its institutions, are criticised most severely and often most unfairly... But science is excepted from the criticism. In society at large the judgment of the scientist is received with the same reverence as the judgement of bishops and cardinals was accepted not too long ago. The move towards "demythologization," for example, is largely motivated by the wish to avoid any clash between Christianity and scientific ideas. If such a clash occurs, then science is certainly right and Christianity wrong. Pursue this investigation further and you will see that science has now become as oppressive as the ideologies it had once to fight. Do not be misled by the fact that today hardly anyone gets killed for joining a scientific heresy. This has nothing to do with science. It has something to do with the general quality of our civilization. Heretics in science are still made to suffer from the most severe sanctions this relatively tolerant civilization has to offer.
  • Most scientists today are devoid of ideas, full of fear, intent on producing some paltry result so that they can add to the flood of inane papers that now constitutes "scientific progress" in many areas.
  • The progress of science, of good science, depends on novel ideas and on intellectual freedom: science has very often been advanced by outsiders (remember that Bohr and Einstein regarded themselves as outsiders).
  • The purpose of education, so one would think, is to introduce the young into life,and that means: into the society where they are born and into the physical universe that surrounds the society. The method of education often consists in the teaching of some basic myth. The myth is available in various versions. More advanced versions may be taught by initiation rites which firmly implant them into the mind. Knowing the myth, the grown-up can explain almost everything (or else he can turn to experts for more detailed information). He is the master of Nature and of Society. He understands them both and he knows how to interact with them. However, he is not the master of the myth that guides his understanding.

Farewell to Reason (1987)

  • By now many intellectuals regard theoretical or 'objective' knowledge as the only knowledge worth considering. Popper himself encourages the belief by his slander of relativism. Now this conceit would have substance if scientists and philosophers looking for universal and objective morality had succeeded in finding the former and persuaded, rather than forced, dissenting cultures to adopt the latter. This is not the case.
    • pg 168
  • We have to realize that a unified theory of the physical world simply does not exist. We have theories that work in restricted regions, we have purely formal attempts to condense them into a single formula, we have lots of unfounded claims (such as the claim that all of chemistry can be reduced to physics), phenomena that do not fit into the accepted framework are suppressed; in physics, which many scientists regard as the one really basic science, we have now at least three different point of view (relativity, dealing with the very large, quantum theory for an intermediate domain and various particle models for the very small) without a promise of conceptual (and not only formal) unification; perceptions are outside of the material universe (the mind-body problem is still unsolved) - from the very beginning the salesman of a universal truth cheated people into admissions instead of clearly arguing for their philosophy. And let us not forget that it was they and not the representatives of the traditions they attacked who introduced argument as the one and only universal arbiter. They praised argument - they constantly violated its principles.
    • pg 100
Not only are facts and theories in constant disharmony, they are never as neatly separated as everyone makes them out to be
  • There is no coherent knowledge, i.e. no uniform comprehensive account of the world and the events in it. There is no comprehensive truth that goes beyond an enumeration of details, but there are many pieces of information, obtained in different ways from different sources and collected for the benefit of the curious. The best way of presenting such knowledge is the list - and the oldest scientific works were indeed lists of facts, parts, coincidences, problems in several specialized domains.
    • pg 98, italics are feyerabends
  • The sciences of today are business enterprises run on business principles. Research in large institutes is not guided by Truth and Reason but by the most rewarding fashion, and the great minds of today increasingly turn to where the money is - which means military matters.
    • pg 102
  • If the world is an aggregate of relatively independent regions, then any assumption of universal laws is false and a demand for universal norms tyrannical: only brute force (or seductive deception) can then bend the different moralities so that they fit the prescriptions of a single ethical system. And indeed, the idea of universal laws of nature and society arose in connection with a life-and-death battle: the battle that gave Zeus the power over the Titans and all other gods and thus turned his laws into the laws of the universe.
    • pg 99, italics are feyerabends
  • 'Truth', written 'in capital letters', is an orphan in this world, without power and influence... ['Reason'] cannot stand diverging opinions - it calls them 'lies'; it puts itself 'above' the real lives of human beings, demanding, in a way characteristic of all totalitarian ideologies, the right to rebuild the world from the height of 'what it should be', i.e. in accordance with its own 'invincible' precepts. It refuses to recognize the many ideas, actions, feelings, laws, institutions, racial features which separate one nation (culture, civilization) from another... The reason of ordinary people trying to create a better and safer world for themselves and their children (which is reason with a small 'r' and not Reason 'written in capital letters') has very little in common with these ignorant dreams of domination.
    • pg 102

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