Talk:Paul Feyerabend

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This article reads as if it was written by someone very sympathetic to Feyerabend's views ... his positions are repeatedly stated as facts. There is no critical response represented in the text and the Criticism section is ... empty!? -- (talk) 23:12, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

I've expanded on Stove's criticism and added a "Criticism" section. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 23:52, 27 September 2012 (UTC)
Fair enough to expand the criticism section, but it is now very long and not awfully instructive (despite being familiar with Feyerabend and Kuhn's writing, I can't really comprehend the point of the critique as articulated here: also, it refers to one out-of-print book by a deceased philosopher who doesn't appear to have achieved a great deal of professional subscription (he seemed to write mainly for the pop sci crowd). He doesn't seem (from Amazon reviews) to have well understood the material. Is that really the best we can do for a critique of Feyerabend? Given how radical his views are, are there really no more notable critiques? (Block, Fodor, Dennett, Dawkins, E O Wilson and so on) - scientific realists like this?). If not, then perhaps the article should be sympathetic to Feyerabend's views! ElectricRay (talk) 12:13, 14 May 2013 (UTC)

I'll admit that it's pretty poor. I did my level best to make some sense of Stove's argument but I'm inclined to agree with your observation that it is "not awfully instructive". John Preston's Feyerabend: Philosophy, Science and Society would be good input to this section. In fact it's the only serious handling of Feyerabend's work I've read. For the moment, I wonder if the "Stove" section should be dropped? I'll remove it and see if anyone protests. --ChrisSteinbach (talk)

Common Knowledge excerpt[edit]

Just removed a whole section:

"Over time, his works came to be used as the basis for many literary deconstructionists, and some radical feminist writers, who claimed that science (and sometimes, even mathematics and logic itelf) were social constructions; in this view, science has no special claim to proving truth, and no more utility than any other way of thinking about the world.

More recently Feyerabend took umbrage at this misunderstanding and mis-use of his work: "How can an enterprise {science} depend on culture in so many ways, and yet produce such solid results? ....Movements that view quantum mechanics as a turning-point in thought - and that includes fly-by-night mystics, prophets of a New Age, and relativists of all sorts - get aroused by the cultural component and forget predictions and technology." (Source: Paul Feyerabend. Atoms and Consciousness', in Common Knowledge Vol. 1, No. 1 1992: 28-32)"

The interpretation of what PKF says here is itself a misunderstanding. Between 1960 somthing and 1992 all PKF literature points to a Feyerabend who does not believe that science has any special claim to proving truth. After 1992, he still appears to be the essentially the same 'anything goes' philosopher he was in the 60's.

The small snippet from common knowledge is all anyone has been able to get their hands on (at least in this forum). My interpretation is that he is clarifying a point on culture. That science, and its results, are not purely social constructs. I can't believe that he radically altered his philosophy in the way described for the duration of one article. ---Chris

I am unsure that this should have been removed. It involves an important topic area that I believe the article is missing substantial information on as well as a direct quotation. Perhaps it could be worded differently, with reference to his attitude over time being removed. I don't believe that there should be a dichotomy created or perpetuated that contrasts 'anything goes' philosophers with those who are not 'anything goes' philosophers, however, and I don't see that argument as a particularly rational basis for your decision to remove this segment. I would suggest that it be added again reworded, but without any implication of a particular modification of his philosophy over time which seems to only be speculated (?please disprove me?). On second reading, the quote should probably remain removed due to its somewhat misleading appearance. Flying Hamster 09:15, 29 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I agree that the topic is interesting and perhaps important. My only beef with the excerpt is that no one seems to have read the entire Common Knowledge article. The first attempt here at an interpretation (which I removed) I still find implausible. Not because any dichotomy is traversed, but because this would have Feyerabend contradict himself to a remarkable degree. The sentence that reads " has no special claim to proving truth, and no more utility than any other way of thinking about the world", sound like something Feyerabend might have written. To say that he took umbrage at this presents an unlikely picture.

Now that does not mean that Feyerabend was not misunderstood. And the first part of the removed text (and the excerpt itself), refering to social constructions, does point to one possible misunderstanding without getting to the heart of the matter. Feyerabend's relationship to social constructivism is complex and not simply a matter of whether he was for or against it. If you want to re-introduce the passage it would certainly be a good place to explore this. -- Chris 12:20, 30 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Have just completed first draft of Felix Ehrenhaft who is much referenced by PKF. I do have more (good stuff about charge on electron) to add but please use and contribute. Cutler 17:04, 10 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Removed sentence on Wittgenstein. As far as I know, Feyerabend had only a brief acquaintance with Wittgenstein, having only met him when he attended Kraft's Circle while they were both still in Vienna. Sir Paul 06:10, Feb 15, 2004 (UTC)


(William M. Connolley 11:08, 2004 Mar 30 (UTC)) Lots of questions. Lets start with a few:

Feyerabend argued that adherence to any strict method would in the long run be counterproductive for the progress of science.

This is a strawman. Science doesn't progress to a strict method. Is F suggesting that it does?

He points out that to insist that new theories be consistent with old theories gives an unreasonable advantage to the older theory.

Again, what is this supposed to mean? Relativity was not consistent with newtonian mechanics, which it replaced. F appears to be suggesting that there was a requiremtn for consistency with older theories - there is not.

He also argues that no interesting theory is ever consistent with all the relevant facts.

Again, some examples would be nice. What relevant facts is general relativity inconsistent with?

William. You might like to address your questions to the feyerabend forum ( ). The feyerabend mailing list has a very low traffic volume and I suspect your questions would get some attention. If that doesn't appeal to you, I would be interested in replying to your questions when I get time (sadly not in the near future). Chris 14:59, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

(William M. Connolley 18:10, 2004 Mar 30 (UTC)) Thanks for the comment. I'm afraid I shall decline, though: I'll stick within the wikipedia forum. I'm sure that editing the article to include the points above will get attention enough :-)

Thanks for your comments, William. I’m not sure how to edit the article to clarify. Perhaps if I explain how I think F. was thinking, you might comment. I want to be clear that I am reporting F’s argument, not advocating it.

Feyerabend argued that adherence to any strict method would in the long run be counterproductive for the progress of science. I thought it clear in the article that for the most part F. is arguing against Imre Lakatos.

(William M. Connolley 21:45, 2004 Mar 30 (UTC)) No, this is not at all clear. The reference to L is as a collaborator - no hint that he and L disagree. If this quote is about a dispute between F and L, it should really say so. Its not clear from the L article, either.

The method of scientific research programs

(William M. Connolley 21:45, 2004 Mar 30 (UTC)) ?

does attempt to set out, as F. says “a methodology that a) does not issue orders and yet b) puts restrictions on our knowledge…” (AM, p. 14). Certainly F. is arguing that a zealous application of falsification would not lead to scientific progress. It’s not F. who is advocating adherence to a method – quite the opposite - but Popper and his disciples – who are certainly not made of straw.

If F is arguing against P, thats fine, the article should say so. At the moment, it looks like F is arguing with the weight of scientifc practice.

He also argues that no interesting theory is ever consistent with all the relevant facts. The examples F. uses are from Aristotle and Galileo. But to use your example, General Relativity (as formulated by Einstein) is not compatible with Quantum Mechanics – hence Einstein’s God does not play dice quote.

(William M. Connolley 21:45, 2004 Mar 30 (UTC)) No, twice over. The quote is not about that - its about E not liking QM much. But the key is *relevant* facts: gen rel is compatible with all known facts (?) on its scale - ie large scale. But yes, it doesn't fit in with small scale things.

The interesting stuff is string theory and other attempts to make the two compatible. Another example, at the other extreme, is the creationist’s theory that God did it. This is extraordinarily successful as an explanation – since it can explain literally everything. Yet it is also extraordinarily uninteresting, since it is consistent with all relevant facts.

He points out that to insist that new theories be consistent with old theories gives an unreasonable advantage to the older theory. I suspect that Kuhn, as much as L., was his target here. There are two things going on. One is a logical argument, to the effect that being compatible with a defunct older theory does not increase the validity or truth of a new theory over an alternat theory covering the same domain. That is, if one had to choose between two theories of equal explanatory power, to choose the one that is compatible with an older, falsified theory is to make an aesthetic, rather than a rational choice. Hence, that theory can be said to have “an unfair advantage”.

OK, once again, it should be made clear who F is arguing with here, in the article itself.

The other is contrary to Kuhn’s contention that science is defined by its being a social enterprise amongst scientists that agree on a paradigm. Such a definition results in an approach to science that is susceptible to groupthink. F. is advocating the role of the Maverick in scientific progress. So, for example, Fred Hoyle was a brilliant scientist not because everyone agreed with him, but because everyone disagreed with him. A method that excluded the likes of Sir Fred would be impoverished.

If you would care to comment on the above, I’ll take a look at editing the article to make these points clearer.

I hope I've made it clear: what you've explained above is quite contrary to the impression I got from the article, which would benefit from explaining clearly who F is arguing with in each case. Also, it would be nice to have the quotes/ideas sourced to individual books/chapters where possible - otherwise its effectively impossible for the interested reader to look anything up.

Forgive me, William – I have the distinct disadvantage of having read the source material. F. and L. were friends and collaborators. They were also very, very critical of each other’s work. The two are not mutually exclusive. The Method of Scientific Research Programs is due to Lakatos. I will not provide full citations – partly out of indolence, and partly because it is an simple task for the interested reader to find the relevant sections in AM using the annotated TOC, and in so doing they will develop a greater understanding of F.’s work. Comments on the new edits welcome. Banno 03:02, 1 Apr 2004 (UTC)

It was at the LSU that he met another of Popper’s students, Imre Lakatos. -- What does LSU stand for? When not expanded or linked to another page, this is nearly impossible to understand. In fact, I suspect it is incorrect, and that it really should be LSE. Can somebody please confirm and edit the page accordingly? MarkSweep 00:37, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Confirmed and corrected. -- Chris 09:18, 23 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Some comments about the questions above :

1.Feyerabend always said that science works and worked best without a strict method. F mostly argue against other philosophers of science who want science to be limited to one strict method ( Popper is the best example of this ). F is also opposed to what he calls "scientific education" in the education system, which conditions humans to one type of method( one "logic" as he says ) and therefore limit creativity, innovation and progress. All this is clearly enunciated in the introduction of Against Method.

2.Feyerabend and Lakatos have very similar views. The only major difference is that Lakatos argues that degenerating research programs are objectively inferior to those that are progressive, while F argues that it is not possible to judge objectively which research program is better since degenerating research programs may become progressive. Furthermore, only one chapter in Against Method is directed at Lakatos. It is fair to assume that most of the time, Feyerabend is not arguing against Lakatos but rather against Popper et al. Guillaume777 01:00, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

AM 3rd [and final] ed. is in some ways a very different book from AM 1st ed.[edit]

some points:

AM 3rd ed. is much less provocative than AM 1st ed.

AM 1st ed. can be read as an "anti-science" book (unlike the 3rd ed.) IIRC in the preface (or intro?) to the 1st ed. PF said that the book was deliberately provocative because of the prevailing hegemony of science, and if and when the pendulum swung the other way he would write another book. AM 3rd ed. is arguably that "other" book.

Didn't the 1st ed. have "in science, as in organized prostitution and ..." all over the place? [In the 3rd ed. it doesn't occur at all. I never saw the 2nd ed., so I can't comment on it.]

-- mp from Calcutta India


Concerning this which appeared on this page:

William M. Connolley 11:08, 2004 Mar 30 (UTC)) Lots of questions. Lets start with a few:

Feyerabend argued that adherence to any strict method would in the long run be counterproductive for the progress of science. This is a strawman. Science doesn't progress to a strict method. Is F suggesting that it does?

Feyerabend does not suggest that it does, but many of his collegues do, for example, proponents of an inductive logic. So Feyerabend is not attacking a stawman.

Feyerabend's 'Trojan Horse' link mostly unrelated to Feyerabend[edit]

I think the link to John Kadvaney's website should be either deleted or moved to Imre Lakatos. It has very little to do with Feyerabend, and I could find no mention of a 'Trojan Horse', while there is plenty of extraneous information about Kadvaney's other research. Perhaps a link to one of the more specific subpages on that website is appropriate, but I couldn't find anything but the Feyerabend memorial that was really relevant.--ragesoss 23:26, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

Imre Lakatos[edit]

Lakatos was *not* a student of Popper's! -- DPR

For and Against Method[edit]

"They planned to write a dialogue volume, to be titled For and Against Method, in which Lakatos would defend a rationalist view of science and Feyerabend would attack it."

I changed this sentence. They did plan on writing a book on this topic, but For and Against Method isn't what it was to be titled (at least, I've seen no indication that this was to be its title). For and Against Method is the name of a book that was edited by Matteo Motterlini and included correspondence between Feyerabend and Lakatos and some other writings by Lakatos. --Deckard05 16:08, 28 February 2006 (UTC)

great work[edit]

This is a wonderful entry, and was very helpful to me. Kudos to those involved in it!

Agreed! (keep it up!)--Heyitspeter 22:19, 21 June 2007 (UTC)

Kuhn and Beyond[edit]

I removed the following sentence: "Feyerabend extended well beyond Thomas Kuhn in his criticism and skepticism about the rationality of science." It's too simple of a statement to accurately describe Feyerabend's position. Feyerabend stated that Lakatos's model of science should replace Kuhn's (see "Consolations for the Specialist"). Given that many people consider Lakatos's model more rational than Kuhn's, I'm not sure if the sentence that I deleted is appropriate. On the other hand, in the same essay Feyerabend defends Kuhn against Lakatos, saying that "science is more irrational than Lakatos ... is prepared to admit." But he goes on to say that this doesn't mean he has changed his mind, it only means that he recognizes that science is much more complex than most people are willing to admit. If anything, Feyerabend isn't skeptical of science, he is skeptical of philosophy of science. He doesn't like it when philosophers of science try to box science in with rules that just don't fit how science actually works. Deckard05 22:34, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

I agree. --The Hanged Man 23:42, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

New PKF images[edit]

Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend has applied a wikipedia-friendly copyright to a few images she took. A couple of them are now in the article. Ther other two are here:


-- Chris 23:45, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

Place of death[edit]

Most of the English language sources on the Internet propagate the information, that Paul Feyerabend died at his home in Zurich. However, in de:Paul Feyerabend and in other sources we can read that he died in Genolier near Geneve. --Emil Petkov 15:07, 26 January 2007 (UTC)

According to Feyerabend's philosophy By Eric Oberheim Walter de Gruyter, 2006 - 321 pages ISBN: 978-3-11-018907-0 p.23 [1], Feyerabend died in a hospital in Genolier. Jarash (talk) 09:49, 23 May 2011 (UTC)

On Counterinduction[edit]

Feyerabend's thesis of counterinduction is barely mentioned in this article although it has been important in modern physics. In Chapters 6 and 7 of his Against Method Feyerabend illustrated the idea in his brilliant examination of Galileo’s defense of the heliocentric theory, showing how Galileo practiced counterindiction as a “detecting device” (p. 77) to create his own observation language. (p. 79) Unfortunately Feyerabend failed to recognize Heisenberg’s practice of counterinduction in quantum theory. Feyerabend relied on Bohr’s writings, seldom referencing Heisenberg, and it is unlikely that he had an appreciation for the differences between Heisenberg and Bohr's philosophies of quantum theory. In the chapter titled "Quantum Mechanics and a Talk with Einstein (1925-1926)" in his Physics and Beyond Heisenberg relates that Einstein told him he was no longer a positivist, because it is the physical theory that describes what the physicist can observe. This idea is later echoed as Feyerabend’s “Thesis I”. In the chapter titled "Fresh Fields (1926-1927)" Heisenberg remembered this conversation with Einstein the previous year and recognized that it was the classical theory that led him to think that the tracks in the Wilson cloud chamber represent the movement of a particle as having a definite position and velocity that defined its trajectory. He then asked: Can the quantum mechanics represent the fact that an electron finds itself approximately in a given place and that it moves approximately at a given velocity? In answer to this new question he found that these approximations could be represented mathematically by his “uncertainty relations.” Thus did Heisenberg practice counterinduction.

       I have listed my History of Twentieth-Century Philosophy of Science in the external links, because I allocate a chapter - BOOK VI - to discussion of Feyerabend including the topic of counterinduction. (talk) 17:36, 21 December 2007 (UTC)Thomas J. Hickey

More on counterinduction[edit]

I removed this sentence:

"Thus Feyerabend proposes that science might proceed best not by induction, but by counterinduction."

Feyerabend quite explicitly denies this in Against Method. In Chapter 2 he writes,

"One might therefore get the impression that I recommend a new methodology which replaces induction by counterinduction and uses a multiplicity of theories, metaphysical views, fairy-tales instead of the customary pair theory/observation. This impression would certainly be mistaken."

Feyerabend's argument in Against Method is that "all methodologies, even the most obvious ones, have their limits." He used the concept of counterinduction in his argument in order to show that even induction (which many have regarded as a "basic" method of science) has its limits. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Deckard05 (talkcontribs) 19:07, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

Good call. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 11:43, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

Galileo affair[edit]

Could we have a comment on why the Galileo affair quote was removed? I'm referring to the text below:

Feyerabend commented on the Galileo affair as follows:
"The church at the time of Galileo was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo's doctrine. Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just, and revisionism can be legitimized solely for motives of political opportunism."[1][2][3]

If that text is removed, then so, I imagine should the paragraph following which refers to "these remarks",

Together these remarks sanction the introduction...

I've reverted the edit for now.

--ChrisSteinbach (talk) 20:37, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

Role of science in society[edit]

There's currently a "citation needed" mark for F's comments on the separation of state and science. I know of two such citations, both in Against Method, third edition: p.viii (Preface) and p.160 (Appendix I). I leave it to a more competent editor to actually make the change on the main page, however. --TFBW (talk) 13:54, 18 September 2008 (UTC)


Why do we link Science in a Free Society and Farewell to Reason and not Against Method? (Oh, I see why...) And how is any red link "useful"? Maybe to editors, so that we don't have to go back and link them again, but I am not aware that a book is inherently notable. So unless the editor who reverted me intends to create articles for those redlinks soon, I think they ought to be removed. No redlinks except those that are going to go blue soon, and those of inherently notable subjects. Srnec (talk) 05:03, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

Absolute nonsense. Redlinks are integral parts of the encylopaedia, and huge drivers of growth. Please desist from removing links to relevant topics, it is destructive and completely unnecessary.  Skomorokh, barbarian  02:06, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
Why not link Against Method? Because it links right back here! Not inherently notable topics should not be redlinked. Books are not inherently notable. Read what you linked to: "Sometimes it is useful in editing article text to create a red link to indicate that a page will be created soon or that an article should be created for the topic because it would be notable and verifiable." It is saying what I'm saying: unless the articles are to be created soon or the topics are inherently notable, there is no use for redlinks! Srnec (talk) 02:12, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
Inherence has nothing to do with it; all three of the works are beyond question notable and deserve articles, and your breaking the web only serves to render it a vanishing possibility that an editor will write those articles. Your claim "There is no use for redlinks" is directly contradicted by the evidence. Please consider contributing productively here instead of making it harder for others to do so.  Skomorokh, barbarian  02:21, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
They are notable for an understanding of Feyerabend's thought, but I don't see how they're notable of themselves. They might make useful subarticles if this article were large enough, but what information would their articles include that does not belong here, in an article about Feyerabend and his philosophy?
Maybe I'll considering doing something useful instead. Please consider removing your foot from your mouth. Srnec (talk) 02:27, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

David Stove?[edit]

Can someone delete the David Stove criticism. David Stove does not matter, he's a pseudo-philosopher and his criticism should not make it to the article for otherwise you might as well put a criticism by Britney Spears. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:56, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

It's some years since I read Stove's 'four modern irrationalists' so I thought I should glance over it again before replying. The online version is now only available via the we archive. Here's the link. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 19:38, 4 December 2009 (UTC)
I've not deleted the criticism, but I have expanded on it to such and extent that readers should be able to make up their own mind about Stove's criticism. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 23:55, 27 September 2012 (UTC)

IPA for name[edit]

It would be useful to have the IPA transcription of his name in the introduction. I would add it myself, but I don't know how his name was pronounced. --N-k (talk) 18:16, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

I second this. According to here it's pronounced the same as the German word 'feierabend' which I guess is 'fire-arbent'. (talk) 09:22, 30 June 2012 (UTC)

Scientific supervisor[edit]

According to Feyerabend's philosophy By Eric Oberheim Walter de Gruyter, 2006 - 321 pages ISBN: 978-3-11-018907-0 p.19, Feyerabend developed a doctoral thesis under the supervision of Victor Kraft. Jarash (talk) 19:02, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

Circular stuff[edit]

The title 'Farewell to Reason' is linked back to this article. I think that such circular links do not make sense. -- A guest from abroad. ;-) -- (talk) 13:11, 1 March 2012 (UTC)

Retraction of eliminative materialism?[edit]

I'm interested in this more or less casually stated line from the section on philosophy of mind: "Even though Feyerabend himself seems to have given it up in the late 1970s...". The paragraph does not elaborate any further. Frankly, after reading this article up to that point, I found it interesting that Feyerabend espoused something like eliminative materialism, so I'd be interested to know more about him giving it up. Mbarbier (talk) 13:44, 20 July 2012 (UTC)

What I find most dubious is the premise itself, the obvious inference that by writing a couple papers that attack a presupposition (one of thousands that he made, which somehow became uniquely qualified for an entry here, replete with a lengthy mission statement) of dualism that he's therefore in final, unappraised terms a retainer of the eliminating the subject, an idea that becomes more ludicrous the more one reads of him. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:25, 3 September 2014 (UTC)

Philosophy of science article[edit]

I'd just like to note that very little is said about Feyerabend in the philosophy of science article. I won't have time to add more substance for a while, so I mention it here in the hope that someone else will. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 04:19, 25 September 2012 (UTC)

External Links[edit]

I would like to draw your attention to the website "The Works of Paul K. Feyerabend" ( which provides a detailed and updated bibliography of Feyerabend's published writings. I think it would be appropriate to add it to the list of external links. (MC)

seems like a good source![edit]

It is a review of John Preston's book on Feyerabend that was mentioned above. It gives account of some of the ideas of the book. Not much, but all I could get so far. (talk) 04:49, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

Now, after reading the study (it's only 13 pages) it seems, that it is a useful source, eventually giving a clear, understandible outline of "what Feyerabend's philosophy was about". And according to it, the John Preston book might not be the best material to familiarize oneself with Feyerabend. (talk) 18:43, 22 August 2014 (UTC) Sorry for the ip changing, it is dynamic and i can do nothing about it, but take my word, the above was my comment 2 days ago. (talk) 18:48, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

Quote from later preface, not 1975.[edit]

"'anything goes' is not a 'principle' I hold... but the terrified exclamation of a rationalist who takes a closer look at history."

This quote is in the article, dated 1975. If you simply check Google Books you will find that the particular passage is from the preface of the third edition (1993). I don't know if it is also in the second edition, but it surely is not in the first (1975) edition, since said preface explicitly refers to reactions to his first edition of the book. If someone had a copy of the first or second editions they would be kind to check and confirm so we could correct the article.

Amber Room in Konigsberg[edit]

One of the main witnesses to the (apparently) true location and destruction of the famous Amber Room was one Paul Feyerabend. Does anyone know if this witness and the subject of this article are one and the same man? Was he managing a bar in the basement of the castle in 1945, whilst nursing his injury? Reference here: [2] --jrl 10:44, 30 August 2015 (UTC)

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