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Absurdity in action
on 4 December 2006
Before reading this book, ask yourself the following question: do you think voodoo is as good science as quantum mechanics? If the answer is no, then prepare for extreme frustration with absurd arguments, dishonest scolarship and numerous inconsistencies. If the answer is yes, you'll be thrilled with this laissez-faire approach to science and epistemology.
The main thesis of the book could not be simpler: all science and all observations are completely theoretical. What one physical theory says is hence completely incommensurable with what another says. In fact, physical theories aren't in any way better than other theories in explaining the world. Astrology is just as valid as astronomy, voodoo is just as valid as our medical science...everything is just as valid as everything else, because there cannot be any rules for validity.
Why is this the case? Because Galileo's physics was not perfectly rational. A (faulty) analysis of Galileo makes up for more than half of the book. Little does it matter to Feyerabend that his physics in the 17th century was presented in dialogues without any mathematical tools. Has anybody ever claimed that Galileo was a model scientist, or moreover, that Galileo can be though of as an example of MODERN science? Of course not, but Feyerabend picks a spectacular and easy target. In doing this he is consistent, though, because any argument is as good as any other. Although one has to wonder how he can claim that Galileo was not rational after arguing forcefully that there cannot be any criteria for rationality...
Of course Feyerabend provokes on purpose. He does not believe all this, as he stated many times later. The book was an effort to wake philosophers of science from their dream that philosophy can give norms for science. In doing this Feyerabend was absolutely right, and his place in the history of philosophy of science is well founded. But just considering this book as an independent work, one can't help the idea that it's parody. It is that bad.