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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anything goes, 1 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (Paperback)
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. Similarly, the fact that an observation is made does not necessarily imply the theory which follows e.g. the moon seen through Galileos eyes. Also, reason is sometimes discarded in favour of new, seemingly unreasonable, ideas which explain the phenomenon and finally science itself becomes a kind of tradition in its own way. The blindness of the usual ways of thinking about science as expressed in the popular press is made clear and it is shown that science is not and never has been or will be the only true way of understanding the universe.

Feyerabend's book is very entertaining given the radical and playfull nature of the man himself (see `Killing Time', his autobiography), nonetheless it is very well researched and his argument is solid. He does not shirk his academic responsibilities but rather writes as he thinks is best in order to explain his ideas without necessarily having to write in a cold or overly rational way.

Feyerabend also includes excerpts from his experience of famous scientists during his life such as the radical Felix Ehrenhaft, the young Popper full of vitality or Wittgenstein. He further explores his own misgivings when teaching people of cultures other than his own e.g. native Americans, Mexicans and so on and his own understanding that he had no real right to promote his own phiosophical view or rather the one pushed by his society as being better than theirs or that intellectual procedures which approach a problem through concepts are the right way to go. Feyerabend stresses that the phrase "anything goes" is far more relevant to the progress of human knowledge and science.

An excellent book written with style.
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