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Remembering Paul Feyerabend – “third greatest 20th century philosopher of science”

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Paul Feyerabend/Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend

PLOS asked an evolutionary biologist to write – unsympathetically, as it happens – about philosopher Paul Feyerabend’s half-century old work on the nature of scientific progress: Anarchistic Theory Says “Anything Goes”—But I Don’t Think So” (Axel Meyer, October 4, 2011):

A very different view on how science advances was espoused by Paul Feyerabend (1924–1994) whose latest—posthumously published—book The Tyranny of Science [3] is the focus of this review. He is considered by many to be the third greatest 20th century philosopher of science. In his international bestseller from 1975 Against Method [4], Feyerabend said, “The only principle that does not inhibit progress is: anything goes” (p. 23) and “Unanimity of opinion may be fitting for a church, for the frightened or greedy victims of some (ancient, or modern) myth, or for the weak and willing followers of some tyrant. Variety of opinion is necessary for objective knowledge. And a method that encourages variety is also the only method that is comparable with a humanitarian outlook” (p. 46). Feyerabend argues strongly against the power that he sees science has: “The separation of state and church must be complemented by the separation of state and science, that most recent, most aggressive, and most dogmatic religious institution” (p. 295).

Meyer finds this unacceptable (and is out of sympathy with philosophy generally). He doesn’t grasp that Darwinism (his specialty, one gathers) is a classic illustration of precisely what Feyerabend was talking about: The descent of science into state-enforced nonsense.

Also, it’s useful to keep in mind that churches play a different role anyway from sciences. A devout Catholic, for example, wants to know definitely whether the Church thinks God approves of divorce, strikes, or representative government (no, maybe, yes). The same person can live quite comfortably with “science does not yet have an answer to … ” In the one case, waffling would leave millions of people trying to make moral decisions without guidance. In the latter case, no action is required if you don’t work in the field.

See also: Also from PLOS Biology, DEFENSE a of “Tyranny of Science” philosopher Paul Feyerabend …

One Reply to “Remembering Paul Feyerabend – “third greatest 20th century philosopher of science”

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    Variety is only needed if the truth is not settled.
    If truth is settled then it should be the only answer.
    so true Christianity can be a way of civilization control.
    The only thing with us IS we all ive together in the same home and so must live with each others beliefs.
    Don’t impose.
    Evolutionism has been imposing on creationism and Christianity under the guise of expert and settled opinion.

    People disagree and then does the ruling party and class allow disagreement.
    Today they do not on origin issues.

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