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Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge Paperback – November 17, 1993

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Editorial Reviews


Against Method is morder than a book: it is an event.”—Archives de Philosphie

“A brilliant polemic”—New Scientist

“A devastating attack on the claims of philosophy to legislate for scientific practice.”—New Society

About the Author

Paul Feyerabend was Professor of Philosophy at UC Berkeley, and Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the Federal Institute of Technology at Zurich. He died in 1994. His books include Philosophical Papers, Farewell to Reason, and Against Method.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; 3 edition (November 17, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860916464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860916468
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #601,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Frank Bierbrauer on January 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Feyerabend was probably the first philosopher of science who really stated that science as it is practised by scientists themselves is NOT an enterprise which can be strictly constructed or even fully described in any conventional methodical way such as the philosophies of positivism and even rationality or idealism for that matter propose. As is true for any human enterprise, no matter how strongly this is denied by the popular science press, it is, as Feyerabend puts it, an anarchaic enterprise, this does not mean random chaos or a process with no order rather he refers to the fact that scientists just as authors of great literature or poets, pursue their subject via many paths rather than the strict methodologies which are supposed to define science, in fact these methodologies fail to be `...capable of accounting for such a maze of interactions'. Einstein is noted as saying that `The external conditions which are set for the scientist by the facts of experience do not permit him to let himself be too much restricted, in the construction of his conceptual world, by the adherence to an epistemological system'. Feyerabend goes on to say that `The discover the secrets of nature and of man, entails, therefore, the rejection of all universal standards and of all rigid traditions.' So starts his book "Against Method" and through detailed analysis of the scientists and the phenomenon in question Feyerabend proceeds to demolish any assertions which compress science into a box which stands alone outside of all other influences such as religion, history, culture or philosophy.
The idea that irrational means are used by scientists to form theories and understand phenomena is stressed.
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56 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Dean on December 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
A friend of mine who worked in a restaurant once told me that if I knew what was going on in the kitchen, I would never go to eat there. After having read Feyerabend I wondered: if the general public knew the inside world of science, would anything with "scientific" basis still be trusted, would we admire their celebrities like Einstein, Feynman, etc.?

Against Method calls into question the position that science enjoys in modern society (politics, education, etc.). The separation of state and science the same way it was done in the case of state and religion during the Enlightenment is suggested. The main reason is that science is hardly distinguishable from the myths often encountered in religion, it can be equally as dogmatic (if not more), aspects of religion often criticized by scientists (such as giving more weight to ideas coming from prestigious sources) are very much present in science as well, and the concept of scientific method that is supposed to distinguish science from myth, according to Feyerabend, does not exist. Scientists on their way to useful discovery use a variety of tools, which includes rational argument and experimental checks, but it can also include rhetoric, propaganda, opportunism, etc. Furthermore it is not only that the scientific method does not exist, but it would hinder progress (in particular of science itself) if it existed, since proposing new ideas would be prevented from coming to light by the strict and binding criteria of any method, and in fact spontaneity would be sacrificed. It is also mentioned that the situation in science is steadily worsening since science has become a business in which producing bulk, (not mentioned are politicking at conferences, kissing up to powerful maffiosos of the field), etc.
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40 of 51 people found the following review helpful By ravi narayan <> on May 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Anyone who expects an academic, theory building and hence myopic interpretation of history, especially in the context of scientific discovery and the nature of scientific fact and laws, would be well-advised to look elsewhere.
This book is a humorous, multi-sided and relentless attack on accepted notions and interpretations of consistency and progress, achieved through a single method (such as rationality or logic), in the area of human knowledge. Feyerabend denies method supremacy over contextual and meaning rich subjective thinking, and marshals the facts of history to establish the lack of any single method or well-defined body (such as science) in the growth of human knowledge.
What Howard Zinn did to conventional history with "A People's History of the United States", Feyerabend here accomplishes with regards to the history of science and rationalism. In doing so, he opens the door not for sloppy thinking, but for colorful and context rich thought and expression.
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71 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight VINE VOICE on February 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
Paul Feyerabend, in writing this book during the anti-authoritarian, hippie infested, mid 60's was, like Kuhn, just asking for heavy misinterpretation. This should make us want to read the book all the more. Feyerabend, as you will discover, is NOT anti-science, Feyerabend is NOT anti-reason and for god's sake, FEYERABEND IS NOT A SUBJECTIVIST! What he is advocating is scientific anarchism, meaning: science does not proceed by any set of rules, criterion or methods. So, as may suprise you, Feyerabend is not even that contraversial.
Feyerabend supports himself like this. Science operates from theories which inextricably use observation, preconcieved theories (like "the earth is moving right now"), language and subject-dependent vantage point. Since none of these are completely, or ever could be, accurate, no theory can ever be proved, and so many theories would be refuted because of changing paradigms, preconceptiois and world-views affecting all of the above, science would never make any progress. Thus, if there are any rules, they are pragmatic hence science is purely instrumental meaning it can only be judged in retrospect and rules only exist situationally. All may be broken.
So how is Feyerabend not contraversial? Between Popper (all theories are inextricable from preconceptions that sometimes are shown erroneous), Dewey (science is pragmatic and instrumental) and Kuhn (paradigm shifts mark heavy changes in science and because of their scope, make scientific change excruciating and unreliable), all of these Feyerabendian critiques have been made before. The other detriment is that while he makes strategic points against method, it would've helped his credibility if he guided us to a new starting point.
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