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Against Method [Paperback]

Paul K. Feyerabend
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Jan 2010 1844674428 978-1844674428 4th
Contemporary philosophy of science has paid close attention to the understanding of scientific practice, in contrast to the previous focus on scientific method. Paul Feyerabends acclaimed work, which sparked controversy and continues to fuel fierce debate, shows the deficiencies of many widespread ideas about the nature of knowledge. He argues that the only feasible explanation of any scientific success is a historical account, and that anarchism must now replace rationalism in the theory of knowledge. This updated edition of this classic text contains a new foreword by Ian Hacking, a leading contemporary philosopher of science, who reflects on Feyerabends life and personality as well as the continuing relevance of his work.

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Against Method + The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition + The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Routledge Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; 4th edition (4 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844674428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844674428
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 16.1 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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A brilliant polemic. --New Scientist

A devastating attack on the claims of philosophy to legislate for scientific practice --New Society

Since it was first published in 1975, Against Method has followed Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery and Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions into becoming a classic text in the debate about scientific methodology and scientific reasoning. --The Philosopher

About the Author

PAUL FEYERABEND was Professor of Philosophy at UC Berkeley, and Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the Federal Institute of Technology at Zurich. He died in 1994. His other books include Philosophical Papers and Farewell to Reason.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anything goes 1 Dec 2009
Feyerabend was probably the first philosopher of science who really stated that science as it is practised by scientists themselves is NOT an enterprise which can be strictly constructed or even fully described in any conventional methodical way such as the philosophies of positivism and even rationality or idealism for that matter propose. As is true for any human enterprise, no matter how strongly this is denied by the popular science press, it is, as Feyerabend puts it, an anarchaic enterprise, this does not mean random chaos or a process with no order rather he refers to the fact that scientists just as authors of great literature or poets, pursue their subject via many paths rather than the strict methodologies which are supposed to define science, in fact these methodologies fail to be `...capable of accounting for such a maze of interactions'. Einstein is noted as saying that `The external conditions which are set for the scientist by the facts of experience do not permit him to let himself be too much restricted, in the construction of his conceptual world, by the adherence to an epistemological system'. Feyerabend goes on to say that `The attempt...to discover the secrets of nature and of man, entails, therefore, the rejection of all universal standards and of all rigid traditions.' So starts his book "Against Method" and through detailed analysis of the scientists and the phenomenon in question Feyerabend proceeds to demolish any assertions which compress science into a box which stands alone outside of all other influences such as religion, history, culture or philosophy.

The idea that irrational means are used by scientists to form theories and understand phenomena is stressed.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Anyone who expects an academic, theory building and hence myopic interpretation of history, especially in the context of scientific discovery and the nature of scientific fact and laws, would be well-advised to look elsewhere.
This book is a humorous, multi-sided and relentless attack on accepted notions and interpretations of consistency and progress, achieved through a single method (such as rationality or logic), in the area of human knowledge. Feyerabend denies method supremacy over contextual and meaning rich subjective thinking, and marshals the facts of history to establish the lack of any single method or well-defined body (such as science) in the growth of human knowledge.
What Howard Zinn did to conventional history with "A People's History of the United States", Feyerabend here accomplishes with regards to the history of science and rationalism. In doing so, he opens the door not for sloppy thinking, but for colorful and context rich thought and expression.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An essential polemic on science/society 14 Feb 2007
It is unfair and inaccurate to criticise Against Method on the grounds that it propounds a relativist approach to science. It is essentially an extremely interesting, and entertaining, polemic in which Feyerabend attempts to shake up our complacency about science, method and the interaction of science and society. His analysis of Galileo is fascinating (as is his later ironic defence of the anti-Galileo authorities in "Farewell to Reason"), but he would be the first, I believe, to say that the reader should think and research the issue for themself, not sit back and take his word for it.

This is a book to make you think, and to provoke you to keep going. In fact Amazon is right - read it alongside Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (And, though he clearly hated the man, you might even have to read some Karl Popper, just to get the other side of the argument.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely valuable reading 4 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book should not be reduced to one of its statements, "anything goes", because Feyerabend's argument is much more complex than that. Feyerabend tells us in a convincing way that the progress of science is made possible by people who do NOT act according to established rules and by people who put ostensibly obvious truths into question. Feyerabend was a very educated man, and his book should be read by every scientist, but also by the public at large - at last as long as we are free to think on our own.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ouch 15 July 2012
I read this book 'to know my enemy' mainly to destroy the arguments used by my old postmodernist college teacher. As you may have figured out I originally stood in complete opposition to this book, rallying behind the likes of Alan Sokal and Richard Dawkins.

However, after reading Thomas S. Kuhn's: "The structure of scientific revolutions" on paradigm theory (read this first), I felt I had to study Feyerabend's take. After doing this, I can at least concede that I have taken on board some of his relativist criticisms albeit I have done so with a large pinch/grain of salt. I am still by no means a postmodernist and as usual I stay close by to my copy of "beyond the hoax".

A quick word of warning about most pre-postmodernist "dada" or any postmodernist literature, it can be very wordy at times, so to those very lost lay-men out there...watch out! I think that with a good head on your shoulders you should be able manage it while it coincides with your A levels.

Also be very careful when reading this book, always approach it with a skeptical mind because it is very tempting to fall for 'woo' when it is written so well. If you feel you are falling for empty rhetoric return to your Sokal immediately.

Five stars for the sheer cheek of Feyerabend!
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