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Against Method Fourth Edition Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1844674428
ISBN-10: 1844674428
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Editorial Reviews

Review

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

“A brilliant polemic.”—New Scientist

“Since it was first published in 1975, Against Method has followed Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery and Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions into becoming a classic text in the debate about scientific methodology and scientific reasoning.”—The Philosopher

“A powerful critique.”—London Review of Books

Against Method is more than a book: it is an event.”—Archives de Philosophie

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.

Ian Hacking is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Historical Ontology, Scientific Revolutions, and The Emergence of Probability.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; Fourth Edition edition (May 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844674428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844674428
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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 attempt...to 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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Philosophy of science can be fun at times. This book proves it. Feyerabend wanted to shock the scientific community when he wrote it, and was very good at it.
What are the main theses of the book? First, "the" scientific method does not exist. Scientists have to invent new methodologies on their way to discovery. Second, sometimes progress requires theories that contradict facts as scientists perceive them. Third, sometimes it requires irrational arguments in order to get your point across in science. Fourth, science does not deserve a special status in a social debate.
To many scientists, these ideas would sound provocative even expressed in the politest of manners. But that was not Feyerabend's style. On the contrary, Feyerabend overdid many of his statements ("The only principle that does not inhibit progress is: anything goes"), and he made rude remarks. Some of his statements are not very well supported by arguments. That, of course, is hardly surprising for someone who defends some irrationality in science. But it will not convince a hard-boiled rationalist. Also, Feyerabend's exaggerations made it easier for his critics to criticize him.
And still, Feyerabend knew what he was talking about. Scientists are indeed sloppier and more irrational than they pretend to be. Galilei's statement that the earth rotates around its axis did contradict the "fact" that nobody ever noticed any influence of this rotation. And it was not science that first pointed out the dangers of environmental pollution.
Conclusion: Against Method is a classic, and it deserves it. It's a very interesting book for those who know how to read it.
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