Paul feyerabend

20th November 2020

Paul Feyerabend on Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Formerly a Popper’s student, and later on he became one of the most provocative critics of Popper.
He had an adventurous life, academically inconsistent, moving a lot across the world, and he eventually became famous. He participated to war, where he remained crippled.

Against Method (1945)

Methodological anarchism

Starting from sharing Popper’s view, then bit by bit to a no-rule epistemology: there’s no such thing as a unique method able to describe science.

anything goes

The book structured as a long personal letter to Lakatos; it looks like a dialog full of provocative passages.

An anti-lakatoshian interpretation: history is unpredictable, complex and unknown. To take part to any discussion and take on anything to help on along the way.


The example of Galileo

If we look at what he wrote, at his arguments, we may notice that he didn’t follow the manual, he didn’t adopt a Popperian approach, but he built his own theories thanks to his insistence and the support of his theses.
Without this approach, he would’ve never performed discoveries which were revolutionary to the world.

Violating the rules of your own time and show the rules you’re proposing are actually better. This violation doesn’t happen according to Kuhn’s rules.
Inventing a new idea of experience and then we argue starting from this.

This is not done using scientific tools only, but using every mean possible to insinuate his idea, which was against every possible institution of Galileo’s time.

+++ ex. of the platonic theory of anamnesys

another example of the use of the telescope by Galileo:
he uses the telescope. In this sense, Feyerabend says this is a masterpiece of propaganda. The opportunistic scientist is someone who grabs the opportunity to promote what he believes in; he violates all the rules to support his thesis.

What does violating the rules mean:

such violations are not accidental events, they are not the result of insufficient knowledge, or of inattention which might have been avoided. On the contrary we see that they are necessary to progress. […] this liberal practice is not just a fact of the history of science. […] it is reasonable and absolutely necessary for the growth of knowledge. More specifically the following can be shown: considering any rule, however fundamental, there are always circumstances when it is advisable not only to ignore the rule, but to adopt its opposite.

  • discoveries which are not accidental
  • a violation is necessary to progress and for the growth of knowledge
  • to go in a completely new direction



From “everything is under control” of Popper to a post-Popperian time which gets very far from its starting point.

There’s no “good method” to be applied to everything no matter what, you have to choose a method specifically suited for the given context.

The very idea of “scientific method” changed radically: today there is no such thing as a method in principle.



Next topic: Introduction to Scientific explanation

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