The Worst Enemy of Science? Essays in Memory of Paul Feyerabend

The Worst Enemy of Science? Essays in Memory of Paul Feyerabend

The Worst Enemy of Science? Essays in Memory of Paul Feyerabend

The Worst Enemy of Science? Essays in Memory of Paul Feyerabend

Synopsis

This stimulating collection is devoted to the life and work of the most flamboyant of twentieth-century philosophers, Paul Feyerabend. Feyerabend's radical epistemological claims, and his stunning argument that there is no such thing as scientific method, were highly influential during his life and have only gained attention since his death in 1994. The essays that make up this volume, written by some of today's most respected philosophers of science, many of whom knew Feyerabend as students and colleagues, cover the diverse themes in his extensive body of work and present a personal account of this fascinating thinker.

Excerpt

I didn't know Paul K. Feyerabend when I came to his Berkeley seminar over twenty-five years ago, about a half a decade before he acquired his extraordinary fame -- or notoriety. I had only intended to sit in the seminar, for I had heard that many graduate students were terrified of his critical mind. "What are you going to speak about?" he asked me as soon as he came in and sat down. "I am just sitting in", I answered. "If you want to stay you will have to give a talk," he insisted. "All my ideas are very bizarre," I said. "Par for the course", he said, taking his calendar out. "When will you be discussing them?"

When I did give my talk I experienced in person how disconcerting his criticism could be: it was the sort I would wish on my worst enemy, or on myself if I had really taken seriously the notion that criticism is a main source of progress and improvement. Feyerabend questioned everything, he challenged and sometimes ridiculed even obvious claims. In a conversation with him no idea was taken for granted. That day I tried to dish out as much as I took, though when the session was over I felt so overwhelmed I was sure that in his eyes I must be an obnoxious fool. But he was very friendly, praised my talk, and invited me to lunch at the Golden Bear. It was to be the first of many lunches in which his quick wit would jump from philosophy and science to music, or art, or the theater, and back to philosophy again; the first of many chats in which we would discuss women, or make fun of each other. He was a mesmerizing lecturer and debater. Once engaged by him, it was difficult to notice his crutch and his leg-brace, or to be aware of the constant pain and ill health he had to overcome all through his adult years. He already seemed so much larger than life back then. I remember his animated face, his infectious laughter, and that extraordinary sharpness of mind that delighted me and the many other graduate students and colleagues who became his friends and admirers, several of whom are contributors to this volume, as are others who did not think quite so highly of him.

Paul Feyerabend, who was once described in Nature as "the worst enemy of science," was no enemy of science. On the contrary, he showed how complex . . .

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