Against Method

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Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge
Against Method.jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorPaul Feyerabend
SubjectsHistory of science
PublisherNew Left Books
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)

Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge is a 1975 book by Austrian-born philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend. The author argues that science should become an anarchic enterprise, not a nomic (customary) one;[1] in the context of the work, the term "anarchy" refers to epistemological anarchy, which does not remain within one single prescriptive scientific method on the grounds that any such method would restrict scientific progress.


Feyerabend divides his argument into an abstract critique followed by a number of historical case studies.[2]

The abstract critique is a reductio ad absurdum of methodological monism (the belief that only a single methodology can produce scientific progress).[3] Feyerabend goes on to identify four features of methodological monism: the principle of falsification,[4] a demand for increased empirical content,[5] the forbidding of ad hoc hypotheses[6] and the consistency condition.[7] He then demonstrates that these features imply that science could not progress, hence an absurdity for proponents of the scientific method.

The historical case studies also act as a reductio.[8] Feyerabend takes the premise that Galileo's advancing of a heliocentric cosmology was an example of scientific progress. He then demonstrates that Galileo did not adhere to the conditions of methodological monism. Feyerabend also argues that, if Galileo had adhered to the conditions of methodological monism, then he could not have advanced a heliocentric cosmology. This implies that scientific progress would have been impaired by methodological monism. Again, an absurdity for proponents of the scientific method.[9]

Feyerabend summarises his reductios with the phrase "anything goes". This is his ironical imitation of "the terrified reaction of a rationalist who takes a closer look at history".[10]

Scholarly reception[edit]

Some have seen the publication of Against Method as leading to Feyerabend's isolation from the community of philosophers of science, who objected to his view that there is no such thing as the scientific method.[11]

Editions and translations[edit]

The first edition of Against Method went through several reprintings until the revised (second) edition came out in 1988. A further revision produced a third edition in 1993. The most recent edition, the fourth, was published by Verso Books, in 2010, with a new introduction by Ian Hacking.

A French translation by Baudouin Jurdant and Agnes Schlumberger was published by Éditions du Seuil in 1979, as Contre la méthode : esquisse d'une théorie anarchiste de la connaissance. ISBN 2-02-005370-5

The German translation by Hermann Vetter was abridged and reworked by Feyerabend, whose native language was German. It was published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 1983 as Wider den Methodenzwang. Skizzen einer anarchistischen Erkenntnistheorie. This translation went into a paperback edition in 1986, as part of the suhrkamp taschenbuch wissenschaft series, and has been reprinted several times.

A Dutch translation by Hein Kray was published by Boom in 1977, with the title In strijd met de methode. In 2008 a new translation by Marjolijn Stoltenkamp was published, as Tegen de methode.


  1. ^ Feyerabend, Paul. Against Method. 4th ed., New York, NY: Verso Books, 2010, p. 1.
  2. ^ Feyerabend, Against Method, 4th ed., p. 7.
  3. ^ Lloyd, Elisabeth. "Feyerabend, Mill, and Pluralism", Philosophy of Science 64, p. S397.
  4. ^ Feyerabend, Against Method, 4th ed., p. 45.
  5. ^ Feyerabend, Against Method, 4th ed., p. 27.
  6. ^ Feyerabend, Against Method, 4th ed., p. 8.
  7. ^ Feyerabend, Against Method, 4th ed., p. 17.
  8. ^ Lloyd, "Feyerabend, Mill, and Pluralism", p. S397.
  9. ^ Feyerabend, Against Method, 4th ed., p. 116.
  10. ^ Feyerabend, Against Method, 3rd ed., p. vii
  11. ^ Preston, John, Feyerabend: Philosophy, Science and Society, p. 7

Further reading[edit]