Author Topic: Paul Feyerabend  (Read 325 times)

Dildo Argentino

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Paul Feyerabend
« on: February 03, 2017, 08:23:26 pm »
I know you'all is men and women of science, we've been over this, but still... guess you could say I'm sort of out looking for trouble here, but...

Today as I was looking for quotes about the purpose of philosophy (as a sideline to the main direction of this thread, please share any good quotes on that subject if you have some) and thought back to my favourite philosophers, and I remembered Paul Feyerabend. Back when I was actually studying the philosophy of science, I found him extremely interesting and very engaging. In the university library, I listened to casette recordings of a series of lectures he gave there 20 years earlier. So now I looked up some quotes by him:

"Taking experimental results and observations for granted and putting the burden of proof on the theory means taking the observational ideology for granted without having ever examined it."

"My intention is not to replace one set of general rules by another such set: my intention is, rather, to convince the reader that all methodologies, even the most obvious ones, have their limits."

"Knowledge is not a series of self-consistent theories that converges toward an ideal view; it is rather an ever increasing ocean of mutually incompatible (and perhaps even incommensurable) alternatives, each single theory, each fairy tale, each myth that is part of the collection forcing the others into greater articulation and all of them contributing, via this process of competition, to the development of our consciousness."

"There is no "scientific worldview" just as there is no uniform enterprise "science"- except in the minds of metaphysicians, school masters, and scientists blinded by the achievements of their own particular niche... There is no objective principle that could direct us away from the supermarket "religion" or the supermarket "art" toward the more modern, and much more expensive supermarket "science." Besides, the search for such guidance would be in conflict with the idea of individual responsibility which allegedly is an important ingredient of a "rational" or scientific age."

"Rationalism... is a secularized form of the belief in the power of the word of God."

"The idea of a method that contains firm, unchanging, and absolutely binding principles for conducting the business of science meets considerable difficulty when confronted with the results of historical research. We find, then, that there is not a single rule, however plausible, and however firmly grounded in epistemology, that is not violated at some time or another."

"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."

"Every profession has an ideology and a drive for power that goes far beyond its achievements and it is the task of democracy to keep this ideology and this drive under control. Science is here no different from other institutions."

"The best education consists in immunizing people against systematic attempts at education."

I still think his criticism of the naive-realist view of science is valid. I have also decided to make him a Discordian saint.
Not too keen on rigor, myself - reminds me of mortis

Mesozoic Mister Nigel

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Re: Paul Feyerabend
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2017, 08:32:46 pm »
He had some valid criticisms, some invalid criticisms, and some made-up navelgazey bullshit. One of the biggest problems with his arguments was simply that he had a tendency to create strawmen that he claimed represented the scientific perspective and practice, and then tear them down. This created the illusion for many laypeople and science dabblers that he was a mighty debater against scientific dogma.

This is a decent article on the guy: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/was-philosopher-paul-feyerabend-really-science-s-worst-enemy/
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


Mesozoic Mister Nigel

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Re: Paul Feyerabend
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2017, 08:44:35 pm »
As an aside, one thing I would heartily caution you against doing is something I mention only because I have seen this tendency in you in the past: This is the tendency to read something published several decades ago, and assume that criticisms levied and points made remain applicable.

Recall that any institution is made up of the attitudes, beliefs, and perspectives of its members. Max Planck's aphorism remains true; change occurs one funeral at a time (to paraphrase). Most of the big guns of science in 1987 are dead.

It is valid to read an analysis and criticisms of the academic institution of scientific research from 30 years ago to inform your understanding of the institution today; history and tradition shapes every institution. However, it should not be the source on which your evaluation rests, and one should reasonably assume that some of the attitudes and perspectives held by the majority of scientists within the institution have changed to some degree.

If you want to understand the current state of philosophy in science, it would be helpful to read current criticisms and understand current debates.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”