Paul Feyerabend

Paul Karl Feyerabend (/ˈfaɪər.æbənd/; German: [ˈfaɪɐˌʔaːbn̩t]; 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). At various different points in his life, he lived 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.[2] He was an influential figure in the sociology of scientific knowledge. Asteroid (22356) Feyerabend is named in his honour.[3]

Paul Feyerabend
Paul Feyerabend Berkeley
Feyerabend at Berkeley
BornJanuary 13, 1924
DiedFebruary 11, 1994 (aged 70)
Alma materLondon School of Economics
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolAnalytic philosophy[1]
Epistemological anarchism
Main interests
Philosophy of science, epistemology, political philosophy
Notable ideas
Epistemological anarchism
Criticism of falsificationism Incommensurability


Early life

Feyerabend was born in 1924 in Vienna, where he attended primary and high school. In this period he got into the habit of frequent reading, developed an interest in theatre, and started singing lessons. After graduating 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 writes 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. When the German army started its retreat from the advancing Red Army, Feyerabend was hit by three bullets while directing traffic. One bullet hit him in the spine. As a consequence he needed to walk with a stick for the rest of his life and frequently experienced severe pain. He spent the rest of the war recovering from his wounds.

Post–WWII and university

When the war was over, Feyerabend first got a temporary job in Apolda where he wrote plays. He was influenced by the Marxist playwright Bertolt 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 his course of studies 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 Alpbach Forum[4] in Alpbach. There Feyerabend first met Karl Popper, who had a "positive" (early Popper), as well as "negative" (later Popper) effect on him. In 1949 he was a founding member of the Kraft Circle. 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, hunting down manuscripts Popper had left in Vienna, a report on the development of the humanities in Austria, and several articles for an encyclopedia.


Paul Feyerabend 2
Feyerabend later in life. Photograph by Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend

In 1955, Feyerabend received his first academic appointment at the University of Bristol, where he gave lectures about the philosophy of science. Later in his life he worked as a professor (or equivalent) at Berkeley, Auckland, Kassel,[5] Sussex, Yale, London, Berlin and ETH 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. In his autobiography, he reveals that the energy in his writings 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 moved to the University of California, Berkeley in California in 1958 and became a U.S. citizen. Following (visiting) professorships (or their equivalent) at University College 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.


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. 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.[6][7][8]

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. Pope Benedict XVI cited Feyerabend to this effect.[9]

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.

While Feyerabend described himself as an "epistemological anarchist", he explicitly disavowed being a "political anarchist".[10] Some anarchist-leaning critics of science have agreed with this distinction,[11][12] while others have argued that political anarchism is tacitly embedded in Feyerabend's philosophy of science.[13]

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 World War II:

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, Schrödinger, 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.[14]

On the other hand, Feyerabend was himself heavily criticized for his misrepresentation of the practices, methods and goals of some of the above-mentioned scientists, especially Mach and Einstein.[15]

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 that 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, Wilfrid Sellars, Willard Van Orman 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 (what materialist monists call "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."[16]

In three short papers published in the early sixties,[17][18][19] 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,[20] "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.

The last philosophy book that Feyerabend finished is The Tyranny of Science (written 1993, published May 13, 2011). In it Feyerabend challenges what he sees in his view as some modern myths about science, e.g., he believes that the statement 'science is successful' is a myth. He argues that some very basic assumptions about science are simply false and that substantial parts of scientific ideology were created on the basis of superficial generalizations that led to absurd misconceptions about the nature of human life. He claims that far from solving the pressing problems of our age, scientific theorizing glorifies ephemeral generalities at the cost of confronting the real particulars that make life meaningful.

Popular influence

The book On the Warrior's Path quotes Feyerabend, highlighting the similarities between his epistemology and Bruce Lee's worldview.[21] In a 2015 retrospective on Thomas Kuhn's theory of paradigm shifts in social science,[22] the philosopher Martin Cohen cites several of Feyerabend's sceptical positions on conventional claims at scientific knowledge and agrees with Feyerabend that Thomas Kuhn himself had only a very hazy idea of what this notion of paradigm shifts' might mean, and that Kuhn essentially retreated from the more radical implications of his theory, which were that scientific facts are never really more than opinions, whose popularity is transitory and far from conclusive. Cohen says that although in their lifetimes, Kuhn and Feyerabend made up two viciously opposed sects, they agreed that science consists of long periods of settled agreement (so-called 'normal science') punctuated by radical, conceptual upheaval (so-called paradigm shifts).


  • ...And it is of course not true that we have to follow the truth. Human life is guided by many ideas. Truth is one of them. Freedom and mental independence are others. If Truth, as conceived by some ideologists, conflicts with freedom, then we have a choice. We may abandon freedom. But we may also abandon Truth.[23]
  • ...when sophistication loses content then the only way of keeping in touch with reality is to be crude and superficial. This is what I intend to be.[23]

Selected bibliography


  • 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 (First edition in M. Radner & S. Winokur, eds., Analyses of Theories and Methods of Physics and Psychology, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970.) The first, 1970 edition, is available for download in pdf form from the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science (part of the University of Minnesota). Follow this link path: Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science > 4. Analyses of Theories & Methods of Physics and Psychology. 1970. Editors: M. Radner and S. Winokur > Open Access > Under the "Whoops!" message click 'Download' From the resulting file '4_Theories&' you need the three Feyerabend sections, 4_2_1_Feyerabend.pdf, 4_2_2_Feyerabend.pdf, 4_2_3_Feyerabend.pdf and the immediate following article on A Picture Theory of Theory Meaning (sic) (4_3_Hanson.pdf) in order to get the complete set of footnotes.
  • 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
  • Naturphilosophie (2009) Posthumously published, recently discovered manuscript from the 1970s - found in the Philosophisches Archiv der Universität Konstanz (Germany). Helmut Heit and Eric Oberheim (Eds.): 1. Edition. ISBN 3-518-58514-2.
  • The Tyranny of Science (2011), ISBN 0-7456-5189-5, ISBN 0-7456-5190-9


  • "Linguistic Arguments and Scientific Method". TELOS 03 (Spring 1969). New York: Telos Press, Realism, Rationalism and Scientific Method: Philosophical papers, Volume 1 (1981), ISBN 0-521-22897-2, ISBN 0-521-31642-1
  • "How To Defend Society Against Science". Radical Philosophy, no. 11, Summer 03 1975. [1], Introductory Readings in the Philosophy of Science edited by E. D. Klemke (1998), ISBN 1-573-92240-4

See also


  1. ^ Hoyningen-Huene, P., 1999, "Feyerabends Kritik an Kuhns normaler Wissenschaft", in J. Nida-Rümelin (ed.), Rationality, Realism, Revision: Proceedings of the 3rd international congress of the Society for Analytical Philosophy, Berlin: de Gruyter.
  2. ^ J., Horgan (1993). "Profile: Paul Karl Feyerabend – The Worst Enemy of Science". Scientific American. 268 (5): 36–37. Bibcode:1993SciAm.268e..36H. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0593-36.
  3. ^ "(22356) Feyerabend = 1992 WS6". International Astronomy Union.
  4. ^ European Forum Alpbach
  5. ^ "Paul Feyerabend und die Demokratisierung des Wissens" (PDF). SWR2-Wissen. SWR2. Feb 11, 2014. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
  6. ^ Ratzinger (1994, p.98)
  7. ^ "Papal visit scuppered by scholars". BBC News. 2008-01-15.
  8. ^ Matera, Angelo (2008-01-29). "The Death of Irony: Benedict and the Enemies of Reason". National Catholic Register. EWTN News. Archived from the original on 2008-02-03. Retrieved 2008-02-15.
  9. ^ Hickey, T. J. (2009). "Understanding Feyerabend on Galileo". Irish Theological Quarterly. 74: 89. doi:10.1177/0021140008098846.
  10. ^ Feyerabend, Paul (1978). Science in a Free Society. London: New Left Books. ISBN 0860910083. OCLC 4653967.
  11. ^ Martin, B. (1994). "Anarchist science policy". The Raven: Anarchist Quarterly. 7: 136–153.
  12. ^ Restivo, S. (1994). "Science, sociology of science, and the anarchist tradition". The Raven: Anarchist Quarterly. 7: 183–196.
  13. ^ Thorpe, C.; Welsh, I. (Spring 2008). "Beyond primitivism: Towards a twenty-first century anarchist theory and praxis for science and technology". Anarchist Studies. Lawrence & Wishart. 16 (1): 48–75. ISBN 9781905007776.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ See, e.g., Hentschel (1985) for a point-by-point-refutation of one of Feyeraband's provocative papers on these two scientist-philosophers.
  16. ^ Churchland, Paul M. (January 1990). A neurocomputational perspective: the nature of mind and the structure of science. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 9780262031516.
  17. ^ Feyerabend, Paul K. (1962). Feigl, H.; Maxwell, G. (eds.). "Explanation, reduction, and empiricism". Scientific Explanation, Space & Time. Minnesota studies in the philosophy of science. Minneapolis. 3: 28–97.
  18. ^ Feyerabend, Paul (1963a). "Materialism and the mind-body problem". Review of Metaphysics. 17 (1): 49–66. JSTOR 20123984.
  19. ^ Feyerabend, Paul K (1963b). "Comment: Mental events and the brain". The Journal of Philosophy. LX (11). JSTOR 2023030.
  20. ^ Keeley, Brian L. (2006). "Introduction: Becoming Paul Churchland". In Keeley, Brian L. (ed.). Paul Churchland. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–31. ISBN 978-0-521-83011-9.
  21. ^ Bolelli, Daniele (2008). On the warrior's path: philosophy, fighting, and martial arts mythology (2nd ed.). Berkeley, Calif.: Blue Snake. pp. 153–184, esp. 171–177. ISBN 978-1583942192.
  22. ^ Paradigm Shift: How Expert Opinions Keep Changing on Life, the Universe and Everything. Imprint Academic. 1 September 2015. pp. 181–2. ISBN 1845407946.
  23. ^ a b Feyerabend, Paul (1975). "How to defend society against science". Radical Philosophy. 11 (1).

Further reading

  • Daniele Bolelli, "On the Warrior's Path: Philosophy, Fighting, and Martial Arts Mythology", Frog Books (2003), ISBN 1-58394-066-9
  • Klaus Hentschel, "On Feyerabend's version of 'Mach's theory of research and its relation to Einstein", Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 16 (1985): 387-394.
  • Gonzalo Munévar, Beyond Reason: Essays on the Philosophy of Paul Feyerabend, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science (1991), ISBN 0-7923-1272-4
  • Eric Oberheim, Feyerabend's Philosophy (2006), ISBN 3-11-018907-0
  • John Preston, Gonzalo Munévar and David Lamb (ed.), The Worst Enemy of Science? Essays in memory of Paul Feyerabend (2000), ISBN 0-19-512874-5
  • John Preston, Feyerabend: Philosophy, Science and Society (1997), ISBN 0-7456-1675-5, ISBN 0-7456-1676-3
  • Thomas Kupka: Feyerabend und Kant — Kann das gut gehen? Paul K. Feyerabends ›Naturphilosophie‹ und Kants Polemik gegen den Dogmatismus. In: Journal for General Philosophy of Science 42 (2011), pp. 399–409 (DOI 10.1007/s10838-011-9170-0)

External links

1924 in philosophy

1924 in philosophy

Against Method

Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge is a 1975 book about the philosophy of science by Paul Feyerabend, in which the author argues that science is an anarchic enterprise, not a nomic (customary) one. In the context of this work, the term anarchy refers to epistemological anarchy.

Babette Babich

Babette Babich (born 14 November 1956, New York City) is an American philosopher known for her studies of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Anders, Adorno, and Hölderlin as well as for her work in aesthetics, including philosophy of music but also film, television, and digital media, as well as life-size bronzes in antiquity (Greek sculpture), and continental philosophy, especially the philosophy of science and technology. She has also made substantive contributions to scholarly discussion of the role of politics in institutional philosophy (the analytic-continental divide) as well as gender in the academy. A student of Hans-Georg Gadamer, she also worked with Jacob Taubes and Paul Feyerabend. In 1996, Babich founded (and edits) the journal New Nietzsche Studies, echoing the spirit of the 1974 book, The New Nietzsche, the pathbreaking collection edited by David Blair Allison.


In logic, counterinduction is a measure that helps to call something into question by developing something against which it can be compared. Paul Feyerabend argued for counterinduction as a way to test unchallenged scientific theories; unchallenged simply because there are no structures within the scientific paradigm (positivism) to challenge itself (See Crotty, 1998 p. 39). For instance, Feyerabend is quoted as saying the following:

"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 the most plausible theoretical principles, or to import such a system from the outside science, from religion, from mythology, from the ideas of incompetents, or the ramblings of madmen." (Feyerabend, 1993, pp. 52-3)

This gets into the pluralistic methodology that Feyerabend espouses that will help support counterinductive methods. Paul Feyerabend's anarchist theory popularized the notion of counterinduction.

Most of the time when counterinduction is mentioned, it is not presented as a valid rule. Instead, it is given as a refutation of Max Black's proposed inductive justification of induction, since the counterinductive justification of counterinduction is formally identical to the inductive justification of induction. For further information, see Problem of induction.

Criticism of science

Criticism of science addresses problems within science in order to improve science as a whole and its role in society.

Epistemological anarchism

Epistemological anarchism is an epistemological theory advanced by Austrian philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend which holds that there are no useful and exception-free methodological rules governing the progress of science or the growth of knowledge. It holds that the idea of the operation of science by fixed, universal rules is unrealistic, pernicious, and detrimental to science itself.The use of the term anarchism in the name reflected the methodological pluralism prescription of the theory, as the purported scientific method does not have a monopoly on truth or useful results. Feyerabend once famously said that because there is no fixed scientific method, it is best to have an "anything goes" attitude toward methodologies. Feyerabend felt that science started as a liberating movement, but over time it had become increasingly dogmatic and rigid, and therefore had become increasingly an ideology and despite its successes science had started to attain some oppressive features and it was not possible to come up with an unambiguous way to distinguish science from religion, magic, or mythology. He felt the exclusive dominance of science as a means of directing society was authoritarian and ungrounded. Promulgation of the theory earned Feyerabend the title of "the worst enemy of science" from his detractors.

Farewell to Reason

Farewell to Reason is a 1987 book of essays by philosopher Paul Feyerabend against the use of scientific rationalism.

Felix Ehrenhaft

Felix Ehrenhaft (24 April 1879 – 4 March 1952) was an Austrian physicist who contributed to atomic physics, to the measurement of electrical charges and to the optical properties of metal colloids. He was known for his maverick and controversial style. His fearless iconoclasm was greatly admired by philosopher Paul Feyerabend. He won the Haitinger Prize of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 1917.

Imre Lakatos

Imre Lakatos (UK: , US: ; Hungarian: Lakatos Imre [ˈlɒkɒtoʃ ˈimrɛ]; November 9, 1922 – February 2, 1974) was a Hungarian philosopher of mathematics and science, known for his thesis of the fallibility of mathematics and its 'methodology of proofs and refutations' in its pre-axiomatic stages of development, and also for introducing the concept of the 'research programme' in his methodology of scientific research programmes.

Killing Time (book)

Killing Time: The Autobiography of Paul Feyerabend is an autobiography by philosopher Paul Feyerabend. The book details, amongst other things, Feyerabend's youth in Nazi-controlled Vienna, his military service, notorious academic career, and his multiple romantic conquests. The book's title, Killing Time is a play on the homophone Feierabend, a German compound noun meaning 'the workday's end and the evening following it'.Feyerabend barely managed to finish writing the book, lying in a hospital bed with an inoperable brain tumor and the left side of his body paralyzed, and he died shortly before it was released. Killing Time was first published in an Italian translation (by Alessandro de Lachenal) in 1994, with the English original as well as German (by Joachim Jung) and Spanish (by Fabián Chueca) translations following the year afterward. It is one of Feyerabend's best-known works.

Kraft Circle

The Kraft Circle was a student society of philosophers at the Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung of the University of Vienna devoted to "considering philosophical problems in a nonmetaphysical manner and with special reference to the findings of the sciences". Its chairman and leading professor was Viktor Kraft, a former associate of the Vienna Circle, to which the Kraft Circle is sometimes viewed as a post-Second World War extension. The Circle was a part of the Austrian College Society founded in 1945 by Austrian resistance fighters.The club was founded in 1949 by science and engineering students interested in the philosophical foundations of their disciplines. In the first year Ludwig Wittgenstein gave a talk. The members were mainly students, but there were occasional faculty attendees and even "foreign dignitaries" made appearances. Meetings of the circle took place during the academic year, while international meetings of the Austrian College Society took place during the summer at Alpbach. The circle disbanded in 1952/53. Feyerabend's paper "An Attempt at a Realistic Interpretation of Experience" (Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society [1958]) is "a condensed version of the discussions in the Kraft Circle".

Kurt Rudolf Fischer

Kurt Rudolf Fischer (February 26, 1922 – March 22, 2014) was a Jewish-Austrian philosopher who emigrated to Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1938 and to Shanghai in 1940. He was born in Vienna.

He became Chinese boxing champion and started studying philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley after World War II, where he made friends with Paul Feyerabend. From 1967 to 1980 he was professor at the Millersville University of Pennsylvania in Millersville, Pennsylvania). From 1979 - 2008 he was honorary professor at the University of Vienna.

Fischer was awarded the Gold Medal for Services to the City of Vienna in 2000 and in 2001 he also received the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, 1st class. He died in the Lancaster, PA on March 22, 2014, at the age of 92.

List of philosophers of science

This is a chronological list of philosophers of science. For an alphabetical name-list, see Category:Philosophers of science.

Passagen Verlag

The publishing house Passagen Verlag was founded in 1985 in Vienna by Peter Engelmann. The primary intention of the publisher was the translation of Jacques Derrida's work into German. Around the author Derrida, Peter Engelmann developed a program, which gathers relevant authors of all disciplines, who identified themselves with the program deconstruction ("Dekonstruktivismus") and "postmodernism" (Postmoderne). Peter Engelmann was honoured by the French State in February 2004 with the title "Commandeur dans l´ordre des Arts et des Lettres" for his work as publisher.

The Passagen Verlag, the name Passagen being an allusion to Walter Benjamin's most important text Passagenwerk, publishes besides Derrida authors such as Jean-François Lyotard, Gianni Vattimo, Jean Baudrillard, Paul Feyerabend, Peter Eisenman, Jacques Lacan, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Sarah Kofman, Gerhard Anna Concic-Kaucic, Slavoj Žižek, Emmanuel Levinas, Clifford Geertz, Ginka Steinwachs, Dennis Cooper, Wolfgang Schirmacher, etc.

Planck's principle

In sociology of scientific knowledge, Planck's principle is the view that scientific change does not occur because individual scientists change their mind, but rather that successive generations of scientists have different views.

The reason for the name is the statements by Max Planck:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it

An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning: another instance of the fact that the future lies with the youth.

Planck's quote has been used by Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend and others to argue that scientific revolutions are arational, rather than spreading through "mere force of truth and fact". It has been described as Darwinian rather than Lamarckian conceptual evolution.Whether age influences the readiness to accept new ideas has been empirically criticised. In the case of acceptance of evolution in the years after Darwin's On the Origin of Species age was a minor factor. Similarly, it was a weak factor in accepting cliometrics.

Science wars

The science wars were a series of intellectual exchanges, between scientific realists and postmodernist critics, about the nature of scientific theory and intellectual inquiry. They took place principally in the United States in the 1990s in the academic and mainstream press. Scientific realists (such as Norman Levitt, Paul R. Gross, Jean Bricmont and Alan Sokal) argued that scientific knowledge is real, and accused the postmodernists of having effectively rejected scientific objectivity, the scientific method, empiricism, and scientific knowledge. Postmodernists interpreted Thomas Kuhn's ideas about scientific paradigms to mean that scientific theories are social constructs, and philosophers like Paul Feyerabend argued that other, non-realist forms of knowledge production were better suited to serve people's personal and spiritual needs.

Though much of the theory associated with 'postmodernism' (see poststructuralism) did not make any interventions into the natural sciences, the scientific realists took aim at its general influence. The scientific realists argued that large swaths of scholarship, amounting to a rejection of objectivity and realism, had been influenced by major 20th Century poststructuralist philosophers (such as Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Jean-François Lyotard and others), whose work they declare to be incomprehensible or meaningless. They implicate a broad range of fields in this trend, including cultural studies, cultural anthropology, feminist studies, comparative literature, media studies, and science and technology studies. They accuse those postmodernist critics who did actually discuss science of having a limited understanding of it.

Sociology of scientific knowledge

The sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) is the study of science as a social activity, especially dealing with "the social conditions and effects of science, and with the social structures and processes of scientific activity." The sociology of scientific ignorance (SSI) is complementary to the sociology of scientific knowledge. For comparison, the sociology of knowledge studies the impact of human knowledge and the prevailing ideas on societies and relations between knowledge and the social context within which it arises.

Sociologists of scientific knowledge study the development of a scientific field and attempt to identify points of contingency or interpretative flexibility where ambiguities are present. Such variations may be linked to a variety of political, historical, cultural or economic factors. Crucially, the field does not set out to promote relativism or to attack the scientific project; the aim of the researcher is to explain why one interpretation rather than another succeeds due to external social and historical circumstances.

The field emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s and at first was an almost exclusively British practice. Other early centers for the development of the field were in France, Germany, and the United States (notably at Cornell University). Major theorists include Barry Barnes, David Bloor, Sal Restivo, Randall Collins, Gaston Bachelard, Harry Collins, Paul Feyerabend, Steve Fuller, Martin Kusch, Bruno Latour, Mike Mulkay, Derek J. de Solla Price, Lucy Suchman and Anselm Strauss.


In the philosophy of science, observations are said to be "theory‐laden" when they are affected by the

theoretical presuppositions held by the investigator. The thesis of theory‐ladenness is most strongly

associated with the late 1950s and early 1960s work of Norwood Russell Hanson, Thomas Kuhn, and Paul Feyerabend, and was probably first put forth (at least implicitly) by Pierre Duhem about 50 years earlier.

Theory choice

Theory choice was a main problem in the philosophy of science in the early 20th century, and under the impact of the new and controversial theories of relativity and quantum physics, came to involve how scientists should choose between competing theories.

The classical answer would be to select the theory which was best verified, against which Karl Popper argued that competing theories should be subjected to comparative tests and the one chosen which survived the tests. If two theories could not, for practical reasons, be tested one should prefer the one with the highest degree of empirical content, said Popper in The Logic of Scientific Discovery.

Mathematician and physicist Henri Poincaré instead, like many others, proposed simplicity as a criterion. One should choose the mathematically simplest or most elegant approach. Many have sympathized with this view, but the problem is that the idea of simplicity is highly intuitive and even personal, and that no one has managed to formulate it in precise and acceptable terms.

Popper's solution was subsequently criticized by Thomas S. Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. He denied that competing theories (or paradigms) could be compared in the way that Popper had claimed, and substituted instead what can be briefly described as pragmatic success. This led to an intense discussion with Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend the best known participants.

The discussion has continued, but no general and uncontroversial solution to the problem of formulating objective criteria to decide which is the best theory has so far been formulated. The main criteria usually proposed are to choose the theory which provides the best (and novel) predictions, the one with the highest explanatory potential, the one which offers better problems or the most elegant and simple one. Alternatively a theory may be preferable if it is better integrated into the rest of contemporary knowledge.

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