Wider den Methodenzwang

by Paul Feyerabend

Other authorsHermann Vetter (Translator)
Paperback, 1995



Call number

CI 2224 M592



Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp


Paul Feyerabend's globally acclaimed work, which sparked and continues to stimulate fierce debate, examines the deficiencies of many widespread ideas about scientific progress and the nature of knowledge. Feyerabend argues that scientific advances can only be understood in a historical context. He looks at the way the philosophy of science has consistently overemphasized practice over method, and considers the possibility that anarchism could replace rationalism in the theory of knowledge. This updated edition of the classic text includes a new introduction by Ian Hacking, one of the most important contemporary philosophers of science. Hacking reflects on both Feyerabend's life and personality as well as the broader significance of the book for current discussions.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member jorgearanda
Feyerabend likes to play provocateur, he likes to make big, brash, surprising statements, but his arguments are more subtle than they seem. The Method that he is against is the scientific method, or rather, the enthronement of the scientific method as dogma. With a brilliant case study on Galileo
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he shows that real scientific progress is dirtier, messier, and far more chaotic than the idealization that the method prescribes, and that this chaos is not only beneficial, but essential to the practice of scientific research. Anybody working as a scientist surely knows this, though many choose to ignore it.

Some of his other ideas, especially his call for a formal separation of science and state, have not aged gracefully. Judging by the overall thrust of his arguments I'm fairly certain that, were he still around, he'd revise these ideas in response to recent and powerful attacks on science (as with environmentalism, evolution, social policy, and medical research, to name some examples).
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LibraryThing member chaosmogony
Feyerabend intended this book as the initial salvo in what he and fellow philosopher of science Imre Lakatos had hoped to be an on-going exchange, until the latter's untimely death ended that possibility. What remains in Against Method reads as exactly that: a spirited argument directed at a
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spirited opponent. Lacking Lakatos's counter-arguments as balance, Feyerabend here reads as more provocative and idealistic than he may otherwise intend, and I believe this is important to realize before tackling his case.

Feyerabend's notoriety originates squarely in his controversial thoughts on science, which earned him the dubious title of "science's worst enemy". These positions are made explicit here, and those who take for granted the objectivity and certainty of science will find little comfort. Feyerabend's argument centers on the privileged position afforded to science in largely secular, modern nations, a position he considers unfounded and, taken to logical conclusion, dehumanizing. Science often attempts to punch above its weight, he argues, and this is not only misleading -- as "the scientific method" is itself a myth -- but politically dangerous as we are meant to give priority to science over other forms of inquiry given that science is "objective".

Against Method is a sustained attack on all of these premises, and Feyerabend's own "anarchistic" anything-goes, no-method methodology of scientific discovery. He clarifies in an early footnote that he is no political anarchist; his "anything goes" mantra is meant to apply to rational acquisition of knowledge, a position which he credits more to the surrealists of the Dada movement than to the Black Block.

I'm not entirely persuaded by his argument, at least certain facets of it, but I do largely agree with his position against any universal methodology of science. It seems clear to me that all attempts to "explain science" have, to date, been unsuccessful (usefulness of these accounts is up for debate of course but none are without problems). I also share his skepticism about the creep of science into public policy -- not because policy should not be guided by objectively-grounded facts, but exactly because there is no clear definition of "science". The messy range of fields we call "science" can achieve a degree of corroboration and acceptance that we can venture a tenuous claim of "certainty", but to claim that this applies to anything baring resemblance to this hazy ideal is, at best, rosy-eyed optimism. I believe Feyerabend is right to point out these limitations, and that we should all take a longer pause before we jump on board with ideas that are "established" by scientific research.

There are problems with Feyerabend's account, to be sure. As with so many works of philosophy the point is not to climb aboard with starry eyes, but to consider the arguments made and realize that perhaps there is something of use to take away and that perhaps your own certainties could stand further examination. In that respect, Against Method succeeds.
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LibraryThing member kpodesta
Brilliantly perceptive book about the practical workings of science. A serious argument that helps to put Science in it's place in society (appropriately dethrone it from the centre of society's attentions without discrediting it). Although it's been called "anarchic", it reads like an
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argument/thesis so as a scientist you can still feel OK reading it, rather than feeling like you're just reading dogma. Changed my view of science completely. I read this after Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" first - and this was the perfect follow-on book to get into.
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LibraryThing member lovell
an argument that the creativity and desires of the scientist have always achieved more than the supposed methods of science ie observation, experimental design etc etc
LibraryThing member Czrbr
Book Description: Verso Books; 1980. Cover slightly worn. Paperback, Ex-Library, with usual stamps markings, ,in good all-round condition, 339pages., 450grams
LibraryThing member DarthDeverell
In Against Method, Paul Feyerabend argues, “Science must be protected from ideologies; and societies, especially democratic societies, must be protected from science” (pg. vii). He continues, “In a democracy scientific institutions, research programmes, and suggestions must therefore be
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subjected to public control, there must be a separation of state and science just as there is a separation between state and religious institutions, and science should be taught as one view among many and not as the one and only road to truth and reality” (pg. vii). His ultimate point is, “The events, procedures and results that constitute the sciences have no common structure, there are no elements that occur in every scientific investigation but are missing elsewhere” (pg. 1).
Looking at the big picture, Feyerabend writes, “It is clear, then, that the idea of a fixed method, or of a fixed theory of rationality, rests on too naive a view of man and his social surroundings. 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,’ ‘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” (pg. 18-19). Furthermore, “Science gives us theories of great beauty and sophistication. Modern science has developed mathematical structures which exceed anything that has existed so far in coherence generality and empirical success. But in order to achieve this miracle all the existing troubles had to be pushed into the relation between theory and fact, and had to be concealed, by ad hoc hypotheses, ad hoc approximation and other procedures” (pg. 49).
In this way, “There are situations when our most liberal judgements [sic] and our most liberal rules would have eliminated a point of view which we regard today as essential for science, and would not have permitted it to prevail – and such situations occur quite frequently. The ideas survived and they now are said to be in agreement with reason. They survived because prejudice, passion, conceit, errors, sheer pigheadedness, in short because all the elements that characterize the context of discovery, opposed the dictates of reason and because these irrational elements were permitted to have their way” (pg. 116). He cautions, “Neither logic nor experience can limit speculation and that outstanding researchers often transgressed widely accepted limits” (pg. 124). Furthermore, “Wherever we look, whatever examples we consider, we see that the principles of critical rationalism (take falsifications seriously; increase content; avoid ad hoc hypotheses; ‘be honest’ – whatever that means; and so on) and, a fortiori, the principles of logical empiricism (be precise; base your theories on measurements; avoid vague and untestable ideas; and so on), though practised in special areas, give an inadequate account of the past development of science as a whole and are liable to hinder it in the future” (pg. 157).
Feyerabend concludes, “Science is only one of the many instruments people invented to cope with their surroundings. It is not the only one, it is not infallible and it has become too powerful, too pushy, and too dangerous to be left on its own” (pg. 160). Additionally, “Science is not sacrosanct. There mere fact that it exists, is admired, has results is not sufficient for making it a measure of excellence” (pg. 124). Finally, “The cultures that call forth a certain reality and these realities themselves are never well defined. Cultures change, they interact with other cultures and the indefiniteness resulting therefrom is reflected in their worlds. This is what makes intercultural understanding and scientific change possible: potentially every culture is all cultures” (pg. 272).
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LibraryThing member infoshoplatalpa
Nel suo attacco contro il metodo, Feyerabend si schiera contro la filosofia della scienza che, pur non avendo al suo attivo una sola scoperta importante, beneficia del boom della scienza e della posizione di potere da essa acquisita, pretendendo addirittura di imporle i canoni e le norme cui
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uniformarsi: Per progredire, la scienza ha bisogno della liberta piu assoluta; in questo senso e un'impresa essenzialmente anarchica, non riconoscendo alcun vincolo alla sua attivita, ne alcuna autorita al di sopra di se, neppure la ragione. Le regole che i filosofi della scienza sono venuti astraendo dalla sua attivita hanno creato entita fittizie che non hanno piu nulla in comune con il concreto procedere della ricerca. Lo studio della storia della scienza dimostra che l'applicazione delle norme inventate dagli epistemologi avrebbe inibito e reso impossibile lo sviluppo scientifico: l'esempio di Galileo e della sua lotta a favore del copernicanesimo dimostra che in tale fase cruciale della storia della scienza hanno avuto un'importanza determinante qualita non certo genuinamente "scientifiche", come la fantasia, l'astuzia, la retorica e la propaganda, e che la scienza non avrebbe potuto progredire se in varie circostanze la ragione non fosse stata ridotta al silenzio. In polemica con Popper e Lakatos, per Feyerabend il progresso intellettuale richiede che inventivita e creativita non vengano inibite ma possano svilupparsi e manifestarsi senza freni.
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LibraryThing member jakebornheimer
Contains a lot of totally excellent ideas. Validity of arguments aside, Against Method is sorely needed criticism of method and scientism. Using Galileo as an example Feyerabend talks about the arationality of scientific progress, and incommensurability of theory. I felt like I understood mmmaybe
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50% of the book, but I know that what I got from it will be in the forefront of my mind. Anyway, I'm sure i'll come back and read it later after tackling Kuhn, Bhaskar, Lakatos, etc.
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LibraryThing member antao
One reason for scientist’s distrust of rhetoric is Paul Feyerabend's “Epistemological Anarchism”. Feyerabend, reportedly developed this view after discovering that his acting skills honed in his earlier life enabled him to win philosophical arguments regardless of which side he was arguing
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The trouble with that is not just that scientists aren't good at rhetoric, or aren't trained in it, but that we are actively encultured to believe that good rhetoric is actively immoral.

When an argument is won or lost of the basis of who is the best rhetorician, then the truth is immaterial to which way the argument goes - and we couldn't have that - the wrong argument must always loose, whoever presents it and the correct one win. Of course the implicit (but false) belief here is that if the facts are presented, unadorned by any form of persuasion, the truth will always win out.

To be fair, this belief is also often shared by the public - just look at the distrust of lawyers - the best lawyers can win an argument for which side they are assigned to, and the public distrust this.

Of course, these are all fair points. But yet lawyers continue to 'nefariously' win the arguments they're assigned to, and politicians continue to garner votes on their abilities to "win hearts and minds". Science communicators, of necessity, need to get in on this.

I don't think it's a false belief "that if facts are presented, unadorned by any form of persuasion, the truth will always win out." I believe in both a universal standard of truth and 'the ideal speech situation'. The trouble is precisely that it is an ideal. No one has perfect powers of reasoning and it is impossible for facts to be presented unadorned by any form of persuasion. Unfortunately, power is present in all argument. It can even be present in the assigning of 'facts'.

Science communicators need to acknowledge this unavoidably imperfect state of affairs and use rhetoric for the right reason.
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LibraryThing member RajivC
In many ways, this is quite a magnificent book. It is not an easy read, and in the next few days I will write a more detailed review.
It is not an easy book to read, and there were times when I wondered if he would ever move beyond Aristotle and Galileo.

However, once you get into the second half of
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the book, Paul Feyerabend started to pull all the threads together. While he did not examine how the process has worked in the 20th century, and this is a shame, he demonstrated how scientific progress is not always as methodical as it seems to be!

At the end, he spelled out some of his own beliefs, and this raised the book to a higher dimension than I had initially thought possible. It is not a book for the faint of heart but stay with it and you will be rewarded.
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LibraryThing member P_S_Patrick
A classic of the Philosophy of Science which challenges the idea that scientific progress and discovery are based on methodical investigation and unbroken chains of logic - the setting up of hypothesis and systematic attempts at falsification. Rather, he shows that many breakthroughs are made often
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as much by chance or accident, counter-logical leaps, trial and error, the creative subconscious, together with a whole assortment of other non-methodical forces (though for all that, often underpinned nonetheless variously by genius, insight, persistence, ambition, and verification).

A number of examples and arguments from the work of Gallileo, as well as other scientists support the claims of this "Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge" over the work of Popper and those who give a more staid account of the scientific enterprise.

Originally written to be a dialogue with another piece proposing counter-arguments from his sparring-partner Imre Lakatos, which was not produced due to his untimely death (Letters between them have however been published elsewhere). It is difficult to read in places, but worth the effort.

Recommended for anyone with an interest in the philosophy of science, or who works in science. Anything Goes.
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