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Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge Paperback – 13 Aug 1993

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; 3rd Revised edition edition (13 Aug. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860916464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860916468
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 13.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,154,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

""Against Method is morder than a book: it is an event."" Archives de Philosphie ""A brilliant polemic"" New Scientist ""Ad evestating attack on the claims of philosophy to legislate for scientific practice."" New Society

About the Author

Paul Feyerabend, Professor of Philosophy at UC, Berkley, and Professor of the Philosphy of Science at te Federal Institute of technology at Zurich, died in 1994. His recent books include Philosophical Papers and Farewell to Reason.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
True masterpiece
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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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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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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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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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By A Customer on 16 Jan. 2000
Format: Paperback
This book changed the way I looked at science. Although I am a hardline rationalist, I can't help but notice how often the intellectuals are wrong and ignorant, normal people are right when scientific issues of public concern are discussed. This book thinks about why, and what should be done about it.
This book is not, however, a populist work. Intellectually it pulls no punches.
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