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Against Method Paperback – 4 Jan 2010
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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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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.
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.
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.)
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!
This book is not, however, a populist work. Intellectually it pulls no punches.
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