Alex Peek blog

List of posts    Blog archive    About


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Paul Feyerabend and intellectual freedom


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend


Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994) was an Austrian philosopher best known for his analysis of science. Science journalist John Horgan said,


"Feyerabend's Dadaeque 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. 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." (The End of Science, 1996)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Feyerabend.


What is science?


"Combining this observation with the insight that science has no special method, we arrive a the result that the separation of science and non-science is not only artificial but also detrimental tot he 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." (Against Method, 1975)


"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 surroundings... It is the principle: anything goes." (Against Method, 1975)


"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)." (How To Defend Society Against Science, 1975)




"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." (Farewell to Reason, 1987)


"Early Chinese thinkers had taken variety at face value. They had favored diversification and collected anomalies instead of trying to explain them away." (Conquest of Abundance, 2001 posthumous)


Scientific facts


"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 see things in perspective." (How To Defend Society Against Science, 1975)