Culture Naturalism Science

Was post-modern philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend really science’s worst enemy?

Spread the love
File:Paul Feyerabend 2.jpg
Paul Feyerabend/Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend

Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994), philosophy professor at the University of California (Berkeley), sometimes said that what is termed science in one culture is called voodoo in another:

To those who look at the rich material provided by history, and who are not intent on impoverishing it in order to please their lower instincts—their craving for intellectual security in the form of clarity, precision, ‘objectivity,’ [or] ’truth’—it will become clear that there is only one principle that can be defended under all circumstances and in all stages of human development. It is the principle: anything goes.” Paul K. Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975, 1993), 18-19. )

Just came across an interesting contrarian piece by John Horgan in Scientific American (October 24, 2016) arguing that he was not necessarily an enemy of science,

Beneath Feyerabend’s rhetorical antics lurked a deadly serious theme: the human compulsion to find absolute truths, however noble it may be, often culminates in tyranny. Feyerabend attacked science not because he actually believed it was no more valid than astrology or religion. Quite the contrary. He attacked science because he recognized–and was horrified by–science’s vast superiority to other modes of knowledge. His objections to science were moral and political rather than epistemological. He feared that science, precisely because of its enormous power, could become a totalitarian force that crushes all its rivals. More.

That doesn’t seem to some of us to be a good reason for promoting post-modernism. Readers?

See also: Question for multiverse theorists: To what can science appeal, if not evidence?

5 Replies to “Was post-modern philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend really science’s worst enemy?

  1. 1
    rvb8 says:

    Perhaps worshipping at the alter of science could become a self destructive theme except;

    except, that the scientists I have met, and the scientists I have read, seem infinately more reasonable than the philosophers, and theologians of the past, and the pesent.

    It is still to this day, that the theologians present themselves as the most shrill, not to mention cock sure individuals. With their certainties of divinity, and design.

    It is always, (always!) the scientists who appear the most self doubting about theories, and who are constantly revising them. Not so the theologan with their indisputable handbook, and guide to, ‘life the universe, and everything’.

  2. 2
    ronvanwegen says:

    rvb8: Yeah, right on, preach it brother!

    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” Stephen Hawking (scientist)

  3. 3
    groovamos says:

    rvb: Seems like worshipping at the alter of science leads one to certainty that combat leads to organic brain disease, you know PTSD being mental illness and as all worshipping true believers know, mental illness is caused by organic brain disease.

    Doesn’t matter if the majority of combatants don’t experience this organic brain disease, even though they have it. They just think they don’t have it and go on living normally.

  4. 4
    tribune7 says:

    If one worships science he has a point. OTOH, universal absolute truths exist and to deny this is nihilism.

    Say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

    The previous line of course is a pop culture reference to The Big Lebowski regarding nihilism which loses some of its effect when you have to spell it out.

  5. 5
    Barry Arrington says:


    It is always, (always!) the scientists who appear the most self doubting . . .

    rvb8, I’m glad I wasn’t drinking soda when I read that line; otherwise my laugh-out-loud response would have propelled carbonated beverage into my my nasal passages, which is unpleasant.

    Do you think Jerry Coyne harbors the slightest inkling of a doubt that evolution is true? Of course not. Are most evolutionists like Jerry Coyne? In my extensive experience, they are.

    Please, please, point me to the writing of a prominent evolution theorist who has expressed doubt that evolution is true.

Leave a Reply