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, who 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.


  • My life has been the result of accidents, not of goals and principles. My intellectual work forms only an insignificant part of it. Love and personal understanding are much more important. Leading intellectuals with their zeal for objectivity kill these personal elements. They are criminals, not the leaders of mankind.
    • Who's Who in America (1991)

Against Method (1975)

Anything Goes.
  • One can show the following: given any rule, however "fundamental" or "necessary" for science, there are always circumstances when it is advisable not only to ignore the rule, but to adopt its opposite.
    • Pg. 23.
  • First-world science is one science among many; by claiming to be more it ceases to be an instrument of research and turns into a (political) pressure group.
    • Pg iii (Intro to the Chinese Edition of AM).
  • 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 form 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
Arguments hardly affect the faithful — their beliefs have an entirely different foundation.
  • 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.
All methodologies, even the most obvious ones, have their limits.
  • Rationalism... is a secularized form of the belief in the power of the word of God.
    • Pg 227.
  • Experience arises together with theoretical assumptions not before them, and an experience without theory is just as incomprehensible as is (allegedly) a theory without experience.
    • pg 151.
  • [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
Facts are constituted by older ideologies.
  • [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 mean a great deal in human life. It provides models for the explanation of a 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
Copernicanism and other "rational" views exist today only because reason was overruled at some time in their past.
  • No single theory ever agrees with all the facts in its domain
    • p. 33.
  • 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
Ultimate Reality, if such an entity can be postulated, is ineffable.
All religion may be centered around a generally good idea, however, this has not stopped its adherents from acting like bastards
  • [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.
  • Facts are constituted by older ideologies, and a clash between facts and theories may be proof of progress.
    • Pg. 33.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • p. 295
A free society is a society in which all traditions have equal rights and equal access to the centers of power.
  • Science is an essentially anarchic enterprise: theoretical anarchism is more humanitarian and more likely to encourage progress than its law-and-order alternatives.
    • p. 9.
  • 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.
First-world science is one science among many; by claiming to be more it ceases to be an instrument of research and turns into a (political) pressure group.
  • Science is not sacrosanct. The mere fact that it exists, is admired, has results is not sufficient for making it a measure of excellence. Modern science arose from global objections against earlier views and rationalism itself, the idea that there are general rules and standards for conducting our affairs, affairs of knowledge included, arose from global objections to common sense.
    • p. 223.
  • 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 their 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 the polemical force they are supposed to have. Not a single one of them stands up to closer examination.
    • Pg. 304.
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.
  • 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 soul 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
Many "educated citizens" take it for granted that reality is what scientists say it 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.
    • p. 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.
Those who violate the rules of a language do not enter new territory; they leave the domain of meaningful discourse.
  • 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.
Rationalism is a secularized form of the belief in the power of the Word of God.

Science in a Free Society (1978)

  • Today science prevails not because of its comparative merits, but because the show has been rigged in its favour... It reigns supreme because some past successes have led to institutional measures (education; role of experts; role of power groups such as the AMA) that prevent a comeback of the rivals.
    • pg 102.
  • Mathematical Reasoning is not only exact; it has its own criteria of reality
    • pg 52.
  • Experts have a vested interest in their own playpens, and so they will quite naturally argue that 'education' is impossible without them (can you imagine an Oxford philosopher, or an elementary particle physicist arguing himself out of good money?)
  • pg 134.
  • One knows quite well that harmony can be a harmony of appearances
    • pg 51.
  • The attitude of the Church was not as dogmatic as is often assumed. Interpretations of Bible passages had been revised in the light of scientific research before. Everyone regarded the earth as spherical and as freely floating in space though the Bible tells a different story.
    • pg 45.
  • I do not see why I should be polite to tyrants, who slobber of humanitarianism and think only of their own petty interests.
    • pg 136.
  • Do electrons exist, or are they merely fictious ideas for the ordering of observations (sense date, classical events)?... If there are only sensations, then terms such as 'election or 'St. Augustine' are auxiliary terms, designed to bring some order into our experiences.
  • pg 39.
  • The validity of usefulness, adequacy of popular standards can be tested only by research that violates them.
    • pg 35.
  • A scientist, an artist, a citizen is not like a child who needs papa methodology and mama rationality to give him security and direction, he can take care of himself, for he is the inventor not only of laws, theories, pictures, plays, forms of music, ways of dealing with his fellow man, institutions, but also entire world view, he is the inventor of entire forms of like.
    • pg 38, italics are feyerabends.
  • Experts often arrive at different results, both in fundamental matters, and in application Who does not know of at least one case in his family where one doctor recommends a certain operation, another argues against it, while a third suggests an entirely different procedure? Who has not read of the debates about nuclear safety, the of the economy, the effects of pesticides, aerosol sprays, the efficiency of methods of education, the influence of race on intelligence? Two, three, five and even more views arise in such debates, and scientific supporters can be found for all of them. Occasionally one almost feels inclined to say: as many scientists, as many opinions. There are of course areas in which scientists agree- but this cannot raise our confidence. Unanimity is often the result of a political decision: dissenters are suppressed, or remain silent to preserve the reputation of science as a source of trustworthy and almost infallible knowledge. On other occasions, unanimity is the result of shared prejudices: positions are taken without detail examination of the matter under review and are infused with the same authority that proceeds from detailed research.
    • p. 88.
  • Even bold and revolutionary thinkers bow to the judgment of science. Kropotkin wants to break up all existing institutions, but he does not touch science. Ibsen goes very far in his critique of bourgeois society, but he retains science as a measure of truth. Levi Strauss has made us realize that Western thought is not the lonely peak of human achievement it was once thought to be, but he and his followers exclude science from their relativization of ideologies. Marx and Engels were convinced that science would aid the workers in their quest for mental and social liberation.
    • pg 75.
  • In a war a totalitarian state has a free hand.
    • p. 87.
  • Traditions are neither good nor bad, they simply are... Rationality is not an arbiter of traditions, it is itself a tradition or an aspect of a tradition.
    • pg 27
The semblance of Absolute Truth is nothing but Absolute Conformism.
  • A free society is a society in which all traditions have equal rights and equal access to the centers of power. A tradition receives these rights not because the importance the cash value, as it were) it has for outsiders but because it gives meaning to the lives of those who participate in it.
    • pg 9.
  • Language became a colorless and as indistinct as the business suit which is now worm by everyone, by the scholar, by the businessman, by the professional killer. Being accustomed to a dry and dreary norm and sees in it an obvious sign of arrogance and aggression; viewing authority with almost religious awe he gets into a frenzy when he sees someone pluck the beard of his favorite prophet.
  • Every profession has an ideology and a drive for power that goes far beyond its achievements and it is the task of democracy to keep this ideology and this drive under control. Science is here no different from other institutions.
    • pg 151.
  • Rational discourse is only one way of presenting and examining an issue and by no means the best. Our new intellectuals are not aware of its limitations and of the nature of the things outside.
    • p. 184.

Farewell to Reason (1987)

In a war a totalitarian state has a free hand.
  • 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
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.
  • 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.
  • All religion may be centered around a generally good idea, however, this has not stopped its adherents from acting like bastards
    • 123.
  • 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
Early Chinese thinkers had taken variety at face value. They had favored diversification and collected anomalies instead of trying to explain them away.
  • '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.
  • I say that Auschwitz is an extreme manifestation of an attitude that still thrives in our midst. It shows itself in the treatment of minorities in industrial democracies; in education, education to a humanitarian point of view included, which most of the time consists of turning wonderful young people into colorless and self-righteous copies of their teachers; it becomes manifest in the nuclear threat, the constant increase in the number and power of deadly weapons and the readiness of some so-called patriots to start a war compared with which the holocaust will shrink into insignificance. It shows itself in the killing of nature and of "primitive" cultures with never a thought spent on those thus deprived of meaning for their lives; in the colossal conceit of our intellectuals, their belief that they know precisely what humanity needs and their relentless efforts to recreate people in their sorry image; in the infantile megalomania of some of our physicians who blackmail their patients with fear, mutilate them and then persecute them with large bills; in the lack of feeling of so many so-called searchers for truth who systematically torture animals, study their discomfort and receive prizes for their cruelty. As far as I am concerned there exists no difference between the henchmen of Aushwitz and these "benefactors of mankind."
    • pg 309

Killing Time (1995)

  • People have different professions, different points of view. They are like observers looking at the world through the narrow windows of an otherwise closed structure. Occasionally they assemble at the center and discuss what they have seen; then one observer will talk about a beautiful landscape with red trees, a red sky, and a red lake in the middle; the next one about an infinite blue plane without articulation; and the third about an impressive, five-floor-high building; they will quarrel. The observer on top of the structure (me) can only laugh at their quarrels-but for them the quarrels will be real and he (the observer on top) will be an unworldly dreamer. Real life... is exactly like that. Every person has his own well-defined opinions, which color the section of the world he percieves. And when people come together, when they try to discover the nature of the whole which they belong, they are bound to talk past each other; they will understand neither themselves nor their companions.
    • Pg 48.
  • Somewhere among the commotion I grew rather depressed. 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 it? 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?" I had often warned my students not to identify with their work. I told them, “if you want to achieve something, if you want to write a book, paint a picture, be sure that the center of your existence if somewhere else and that it’s solidly grounded; only then will you be able to keep your cool and laugh at the attacks that are bound to come." I myself had followed this advice in the past, but now I was alone, sick with some unknown affliction; my private life was in a mess, and I was without a defense. I often wished I had never written that fucking book.
    • Pg 147.

Conquest of Abundance (2001 [posthumous])

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.
  • Those who violate the rules of a language do not enter new territory; they leave the domain of meaningful discourse. Even facts in these circumstances dissolve, because they are shaped by the language and subjected to its limitations.
    • p. 20.
  • And where is the boundary-if there is a boundary-between a collective outlook and "the world"?. Many cultures assume such a boundary, but they set it in different places. Divine appearances once were real- they are mere fantasies today. Where shall we, who examine the phenomenon, set the boundary?
    • pg 27.
  • Arguments hardly affect the faithful- their beliefs have an entirely different foundation.
    • pg 212.
  • Many "educated citizens" take it for granted that reality is what scientists say it is and that other opinions may be recorded, but need not be taken seriously. But science offers not one story, it offers many; the stories clash and their relation to a story-independent "reality" is as problematic as the relation of the Homeric epics to an alleged "Homeric world."
    • Pg 27.
  • Human paint, produce films and videos; they dance, dream and make music; they engage in political action, exchange goods, perform rituals, build houses start wars, act in plays, try to please patrons- and so on... They contain patterns, press the practitioners to "conform" and in this way mold their thought, their perception, their actions, and their discriminative abilities.
    • pg 28.
  • The existence of antagonistic "conspiracies" was recognized by the defenders of religious and political views. Iconoclasts knew that images might distort the basic message of their creed (which consisted of words and resided in Holy Books). Church architecture and church music were adapted to the needs of the Holy Faith. Alternative styles were either fought or made part of religious PR. I conclude that our 'field of experience' is molded, overlaid, and 'conspired' against not just by language, but by numerous other patterns and institutions, many of them in mutual conflict. An inference from a style, a particular linguistic apparatus, or, more recently, from scientific beliefs, to a cosmology, corresponding ways of life and an all-embracing "spirit of the age therefore needs special support; it cannot be made as a matter of course.
    • pg 28.
  • Ultimate Reality, if such an entity can be postulated, is ineffable.
    • pg 214.
  • What is surprising is that almost all the trends that developed within the sciences, Aristotelianism and an extreme Platonism included, produced results, not only in special domains, but everywhere; there exist highly theoretical branches of biology and highly empirical parts of astrophysics. The world is a complex an many-sided thing.
    • Pg 152.
Results from a given approach are "facts" as long as the approach fits the group or the tradition that is being addressed
  • There is no "scientific worldview" just as there is no uniform enterprise "science"- except in the minds of metaphysicians, school masters, and scientists blinded by the achievements of their own particular niche... There is no objective principle that could direct us away from the supermarket "religion" or the supermarket "art" toward the more modern, and much more expensive supermarket "science." Besides, the search for such guidance would be in conflict with the idea of individual responsibility which allegedly is an important ingredient of a "rational" or scientific age.
    • Pg 159.
  • Early Chinese thinkers had taken variety at face value. They had favored diversification and collected anomalies instead of trying to explain them away.
    • Pg 7.
  • So far Unitarian realism claiming to possess positive knowledge about Ultimate Reality has succeeded only by excluding large areas of phenomena or by declaring, without proof, that they could be reduced to basic theory, which, in this connection, means elementary particle physics.
    • pg 215
Science is an essentially anarchic enterprise: theoretical anarchism is more humanitarian and more likely to encourage progress than its law-and-order alternatives.
  • The members of the Japanese enlightenment of the early 1870's, Fukuzawa among them, now reasoned as follows: Japan can keep its independence only if it becomes stronger. It can become stronger only with the help of science. It will use science effectively only if it does not just practice science but also believes in the underlying ideology. To many traditional Japanese this ideology-the scientific worldview- was barbaric. But, so the followers of Fukuzawa argued, it was necessary to adopt barbaric ways, to regard them as advanced, to introduce the whole of Western civilization in order to survive. Having been thus prepared, Japanese scientists soon branched out as their Western colleagues had done before and falsified the uniform ideology that had started the development. The lesson I draw from this sequence of events is that a uniform 'scientific view of the world' may be useful for people doing science... However, it is a disaster for outsiders(philosophers, fly-by-night mystics, prophets of a new age, the (educated public"), who, being undisturbed by the complexities of research, are liable to fall for the most simpleminded and most vapid tale.
    • pg 160.
  • Humane science must be adapted to the requirements of a balanced and rewarding life.
    • pg 217.
  • A Universal Good should reflect the reality of the individual benefits that are collected under its name, not the other way around.
    • pg 218.
  • Confronted with such a variety most philosophers try to establish one approach to the exclusion of all others. As far as they are concerned there can only be one true way- and they want to find it. Thus normative philosophers argue that knowledge is a result of the application of certain rules, they propose rules which in their opinion constitute knowledge and reject what clashes with them.
    • Pg 84.
  • Results from a given approach are "facts" as long as the approach fits the group or the tradition that is being addressed
    • pg 86.

Quotes about Feyerabend

  • Feyerabend's Dadaesque rhetoric concealed a deadly serious point: the human compulsion to find absolute truths, however noble, too often culminates in tyranny. Feyerabend attacked science not because he truly believed that it had no more claim to truth than did astrology. Quite the contrary. Feyerabend attacked science because he recognized—and he was horrified by—its power, its potential to stamp out the diversity of human thought and culture. He objected to scientific certainty for moral and political, rather than for epistemological, reasons.
  • The working biologist does not ask whether he should follow the prescriptions of this or that school of philosophy. When one studies the history of various theories in science, one sympathizes with Feyerabend (1975), who claimed, "Anything goes." Indeed this attitude seems to be what guides the biologist in most of his theorizing. He does what François Jacob (1977) — with respect to natural selection — has called ‘tinkering.’ He uses whatever method will get him at the moment most conveniently to the solution of his problem.
    • Ernst Mayr, This is Biology: The Science of the Living World (1998), p. 56
  • Paul Feyerabend was one of the most influential philosophers of science of the twentieth century—unfortunately, I might add. While he was not a postmodernist (he reportedly did believe in an objective reality), his writings have given plenty of ammunition to post-modernists and even the few creationists who know who he was.
  • Here is what I think was very valuable in Feyerabend’s analysis, both as conducted in Philosophy of Nature and elsewhere in his writings. He was an iconoclast who was not afraid to think outside the box, way outside the box. And his criticism of science as a potentially dehumanizing (“alienating”) enterprise that lends itself to power games and ideological exploitation was right on the mark. He anticipated the modern phenomenon of scientism. It takes some serious intellectual guts to write a book like Philosophy of Nature, where one presents a sweeping rethinking of the entire history of Western philosophy and science, and — again — I’m glad I read the book.
    But Feyerabend seems to be perversely blind to some obvious answers to his own questions. At some point he claims that it is hard to fathom why Aristotelian physics gave out to its Galileian and Newtonian successor. Well, because Galileo and Newton were much closer than Aristotle to understanding how the world actually works, not to mention being able to make accurate experimental predictions.
  • It is true that Popper and Feyerabend differ in many respects. But it is unfair to single out Feyerabend as worse than the others. For he too sets out to do what he sincerely believes is best for society. This he does by declaring "Anything goes", a position that follows inescapably from the (popperian) premise that all observations are theory-laden. This premise is the most basic of all errors, and the writings of those who commit it are bound to be a hopeless muddle. If Popper, Kuhn and their followers do not like being called relativists, negativists and irrationalists, then they ought to repudiate this worst of all antitheses.
    • T. Theocharis, M. Psimopoules, "Where Science has gone wrong", Nature, Vol. 333, 2 June 1988
  • It is only fair to admit my limitations and biases in making this judgment. After a few years’ infatuation with philosophy as an undergraduate I became disenchanted. The insights of the philosophers I studied seemed murky and inconsequential compared with the dazzling successes of physics and mathematics. From time to time since then I have tried to read current work on the philosophy of science. Some of it I found to be written in a jargon so impenetrable that I can only think that it aimed at impressing those who confound obscurity with profundity. Some of it was good reading and even witty, like the writings of Wittgenstein and Paul Feyerabend. But only rarely did it seem to me to have anything to do with the work of science as I knew it. According to Feyerabend, the notion of scientific explanation developed by some philosophers of science is so narrow that it is impossible to speak of one theory being explained by another, a view that would leave my generation of particle physicists with nothing to do.
    • Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory (1992), Chap. 7 : Against Philosophy
  • Beneath Feyerabend's rhetorical antics lurked a deadly serious theme: the human compulsion to find absolute truths, however noble it may be, often culminates in tyranny. Feyerabend attacked science not because he actually believed it was no more valid than astrology or religion. Quite the contrary. He attacked science because he recognized — and was horrified by — science's vast superiority to other modes of knowledge. His objections to science were moral and political rather than epistemological. He feared that science, precisely because of its enormous power, could become a totalitarian force that crushes all its rivals.

See also

Philosophy of science
ConceptsAnalysisA priori and a posterioriCausalityDemarcation problemFactInductive reasoningInquiryNatureObjectivityObservationParadigmProblem of inductionScientific methodScientific revolutionScientific theory
Related topicsAlchemyEpistemologyHistory of scienceLogicMetaphysicsPseudoscienceRelationship between religion and scienceSociology of scientific knowledge
Philosophers of science PlatoAristotleStoicism
AverroesAvicennaRoger BaconWilliam of Ockham
Francis BaconThomas HobbesRené DescartesGalileo GalileiPierre GassendiIsaac NewtonDavid Hume
Immanuel KantFriedrich SchellingWilliam WhewellAuguste ComteJohn Stuart MillHerbert SpencerWilhelm WundtCharles Sanders PeirceHenri PoincaréPierre DuhemRudolf SteinerKarl Pearson
Alfred North WhiteheadBertrand RussellAlbert EinsteinOtto NeurathC. D. BroadMichael PolanyiHans ReichenbachRudolf CarnapKarl PopperW. V. O. QuineThomas KuhnImre LakatosPaul FeyerabendJürgen HabermasIan HackingBas van FraassenLarry LaudanDaniel Dennett
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