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Against Method

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  2,620 ratings  ·  105 reviews
Modern philosophy of science has paid great attention to the understanding of scientific 'practice', in contrast to concentration on scientific 'method'. Paul Feyerabend's acclaimed work, which has contributed greatly to this new emphasis, shows the deficiencies of some widespread ideas about the nature of knowledge. He argues that the only feasible explanations of scienti ...more
Paperback, Third Edition, 296 pages
Published November 17th 1993 by Verso (first published 1975)
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This is a challenging book to review. The obvious problems are bad enough: Feyerabend quotes extensively from a multitude of authors that I know poorly or not at all, including philosophers of science (Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Carnap, Duhem), other philosophers (Protagoras, Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Heidegger, Marx, Lenin), scientists, most of whom he claims to have read in the original (Galileo, Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Newton, Einstein, Bohr) and classical literature (Homer, also in the original). ...more
Against Method is a unsystematic book which doesn't always posit an argument so much as ask a lot of questions. Feyerabend lists his main points in Ch. 19:

-What is science?
-What is so great about science?
-And how are we to use the sciences and who decides the matter?

Feyerabend's main assertion is that science and the 'scientific method' are not inherently objective, and that their results and methods are largely dependent upon social contexts. Science is 'pluralistic' in that
Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, keeper
Feyerabend, Kuhn and Edward de Bono published within short intervals of each other circa 1970s, with practically indistinguishable platforms. I find this co-occurrence not insignificant, and ironical given the premise of their ‘new philosophy’. Ironical, in that their call for a variant of ‘anarchistic’ epistemology, by virtue of arriving simultaneously, implies reliance on sequential, table-top deduction (the very methodology they are trying to discredit).

The idea is to discredit empirical met
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
This took forever to read, not because the contents were boring, but because most of it went way over my head. Sometimes, entire pages seem to have been machine-translated from German, to which Feyerabend added Greek and Latin quotes, and cites ten different philosophers and forgotten authors to make the confusion complete. I had to look up quite a few English words (incommensurable, counter-inductive, etc.). But then suddenly, the next 5 pages are crystal clear and genius!

To summarize his poin
I read Feyerabend because I know he's a critical figure in the philosophy of science, not because I expected to agree with anything he said. But not only does he make a fair number of persuasive points, he does so in a remarkably clear, straightforward style.

Some points I happen to agree with... First, there is no one scientific method, but rather a multiplicity of methods preferred by multiple disciplines. And that a lot of science is simply grasping in the dark.

Where I
Coop Williams
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book attacks the scientific method by using Galileo's promotion of heliocentrism as a reductio. If that piques your interest, you should read it. The historical particulars can be really hard to follow in this text though, so it's a good idea to take notes. I recommend it for fans of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Michael Polanyi, and Hannah Arendt.

Feyerabend argues that the scientific method is an inadequate and even stultifying rule, because it demands that new theories be supported by
Alex Lee
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Feyerabend writes a difficult book here, but one which is necessary. Taking a radically different perspective on the aesthetics of what theory is, Feyerabend attack one of the scared cows of science and mathematics -- that of consistency.

In some ways, Feyerabend could have raised objections more metaphysically -- that ideas have at their germination roots outside of a given domain -- that culture plays a role in utilizing domains in one area to influence another -- that science is a
Christopher Roberts
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, philosophy
Reading Feyerbend was recommended to me because somebody who has heard me criticize the way "Science" (with a capital S) claims to be, one system, objective and free of cultural bias, as well as saying it can set standards for ethics and political thought, that I pretty much have the same view as Feyerbend about how the way science interacts with the current society is totally fucked. This person was right and so is Feyerbend, though I don't agree with him on everything.

A lot of my thought on
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, favorites
Against Method is Paul Feyerabend's profound, brilliant treatise on the tenuous relation between scientific theory and practice. If the book has a central thesis, it is the famous phrase 'anything goes' - but there's no systematic argument here. Instead Feyerabend offers a constellation of polemics, beginning with an analysis of Galileo's 'confirmation' of Copernicanism to show that real scientific practice is counterinductive, irrational, propagandistic, and riddled with inconsistencies. He dis ...more
Oliver Wood
Feb 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
Feyerabend spends nearly half a book on Galileo and his astronomical observations as a paradigmatic example of how science is in fact anarchic rather than methodical. The trouble is, compared to more modern discoveries like DNA, we don't actually know that much about Galileo when it comes to his celestial deductions. Given the thesis, it would have made more sense to focus on half a dozen discoveries from the c20th. Not only would this have built a much more comprehensive (hence: firmer) case, i ...more
Jun 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Relativist polemic against scientific monopolies. Feyerabend is a physicist and astronomer as well as a philosopher by training. His anti-positivist arguments are made with care and humor. Using Galileo as a case study, he demonstrates that so-called scientific revolutions also invariably break with pre-given logical structures, such that the scientific method is violated as a matter of course, and re-written each time. As a consequence, propagandists (like Galileo) fare very well. Propagandists ...more
Apr 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book dealing with the way in which science loses something by rigidly adhering to antiquated methodologies and theories. No theory can make sense of every fact within its domain. There are usually incommensurable facts that must be taken into account, and this challenges the basis of the theory itself. A wise scientist will then challenge the theory and assert something new, and when science fails to accomodate new facts it becomes stagnant and stifles progress. Anarchistic in his approa ...more
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Has very little to do with anarchism.
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
Feyerabend should, undoubtedly, be praised for providing a scathing critique of the status of the scientific enterprise within contemporary society. It wasn't a popular position to take at the time it was written, and it's still not much of a popular position today (except among Creationists, perhaps). It couldn't have been easy to step outside of the imposing influence of the day and say something that nobody wanted to hear. He made people--scientists, philosophers, and laymen alike--critically ...more
Samuel Sanchinel
Jan 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves
After reading Kuhn and Lakatos, Feyerabend comes with a radical new approach for descriptive and prescriptive attributes of science. Instead of keeping science confined in its own little community Feyerabend breaks boundaries and intertwines disciplines. He stretches science to include political messages and is bountiful with scientific examples (though may be dreary sometimes.)

Although I do not agree with all that he says, in some parts he is too radical for me, and I am not on-boar
Anastasios Kozaitis
Mar 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: smart people
Shelves: read-past
A Brecht stage hand who refutes scientific method and sticks his thumb in the eyes of the high priests of science. It's something to behold, I say.
Luis Felipe
May 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Great joke.
Nov 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
“For is it not possible that science as we know it today, or a “search for the truth” in the style of traditional philosophy, will create a monster? Is it not possible that an objective approach that frowns upon personal connections between the entities examined will harm people, turn them into miserable, unfriendly, self-righteous mechanisms without charm or humour? “Is it not possible,” asks Kierkegaard, “that my activity as an objective [or critico-rational:] observer of nature will weaken my ...more
Michael A.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A unique perspective on how science is done. Feyerabend posits that historically speaking scientific advances are often made by going AGAINST prevailing reason and being counterinductive and constructing ad hoc hypotheses to fit phenomena that is later on explained in a better way. He uses plenty of historical examples but mainly focuses on Galileo supporting Copernicus. He also makes an interesting claim that Galileo was not purely rational: he used propaganda - not only that, but the Church wa ...more
Jun 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: future scientists and those interested in epistemology
Shelves: philosophy
Truth and meaning are perhaps two of the most polarizing issues one can write about. Humans are generally quite defensive about their core beliefs and unwilling to accept direct criticism on them. Most books that attempt to do so simply end up pandering to their already faithful disciples (just how many evangelicals do you think have read The Gold Delusion?). Those who back "science" often declare it the absolute monarch of knowledge, place it atop an unassailable throne, and condemn all who ref ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Changed the way I think about science more than any other philosophy of science book I've read yet. Not that I subscribe to all, or even many, of the ideas presented (which I doubt Feyerabend would even want), but the book goads you into thinking hard about the practice(s) of science(s) and its/their situation in broader human experience.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite troll used to be Socrates but this honor now goes to Feyerabend. The way his philosophy in general and this book in particular have been set up can be interpreted in different ways. He could mean what he says, by claiming that his methodological anarchism is what we should do or he could only be saying what he says to give us a different framework so that we can have something else to compare our methodologies with. Most likely, he didn't know or didn't care what he did either. Maybe ...more
Alvaro de Menard
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Feyerabend's aim in this book is to attack the "scientific method" and instead promote what he calls methodological/epistemological anarchism.

The best parts involve Feyerabend playing amateur historian and quoting interesting primary sources. For example, Galileo had trouble convincing people the telescope worked, and in various ways the telescope disagreed with the naked eye:

Hokey, Kepler's overly-excited pupil, wrote on this occasion; 'I never slept on the 24th or 25th April, d/>
Simon Mcleish
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Originally published on my blog here in December 1999.

Possibly Feyerabend's best known book, Against Method is basically an attack on the idea that science has a single, monolithic 'method', one which has stood the test of time and produced the 'advances' (the advance of science is a subsidiary target) leading to the science we know today. Instead of the close connection between ideas of rationality and scientific method on which many thinkers would base their understanding of science on
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
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 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 ...more
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well, it's hard to know what to make of a book like this, especially in our current moment, when a kind of popular anti-foundationalism has resulted in a political calamity. This is might not seem fair except that in Feyerabend's case his project is explicitly political -- he calls himself an "epistemological anarchist" (yet, weirdly for a self-professed anarchist, seems to value JS Mill above any other philosopher). And the anarchic spirit is there on page one, where Feyerabend asserts, mischie ...more
Christine Cordula Dantas
Jan 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
An interesting book that brings some humanistic/cultural elements to the scientific endeavor, not only evidenced from an analysis of past discoveries, but also as a fundamental prerequisite for any actual scientific activity. The author brings in an anarchistic view of the scientific process— if there is even a "process" at all— as opposed to strict methodological views, as those proposed in, e. g., the well-known works of Popper and Kuhn. I think that the present book is only recommended after ...more
This book was assigned for class on science, magic, and religion. The other books intrigued me more, they looked much more exciting and this one was sitting beige-ly on the shelf. I did not have any expectations, but now I think it is one of the most useful books I have ever read, it kind of blew my mind, and I want to illustrate a version of it with my stupid drawings.

I don't even know if I can properly review this book yet.

But I can geek out and get excited about the implications for mad sci
Rui Coelho
May 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Rorty said that while Philosophy had grown into adulthood during the 20th century, Science's maturity was yet to come. On Against Method, Feyerabend offers a small contribution emancipate Science from its worst deliriums. The author presents his vision of a pluralist Science which leaves behind epistemic arrogance and doctrinal orthodoxy. Definitely a worth read.
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Although I don't agree with a lot of Feyerabend's key points he makes some really compelling arguments in this book.

Mainly the book is about promoting epistemological anarchism which is a sort of methodological relativism. Feyerabend believes that in order for science to "progress" further, it is often necessary to leave the old system and start completely afresh, even if we don't possess the necessary evidence to confirm the validity of our new approach. Simply put, complete scienti
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Paul Karl Feyerabend was an Austrian-born philosopher of science best known for his work as a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he worked for three decades (1958–1989).

His life was a peripatetic one, as he lived at various times in England, the United States, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, and finally Switzerland. His major works include Against Method (publis
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“Teachers' using grades and the fear of failure mould the brains of the young until they have lost every ounce of imagination they might once have possessed.” 30 likes
“Without a constant misuse of language there cannot be any discovery, any progress” 29 likes
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