Feyerabend: Philosophy, Science and Society

Feyerabend: Philosophy, Science and Society

John Preston

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0745616763

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Feyerabend: Philosophy, Science and Society

John Preston

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0745616763

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This book is the first comprehensive critical study of the work of Paul Feyerabend, one of the foremost twentieth-century philosophers of science.

The book traces the evolution of Feyerabend's thought, beginning with his early attempt to graft insights from Wittgenstein's conception of meaning onto Popper's falsificationist philosophy. The key elements of Feyerabend's model of the acquisition of knowledge are identified and critically evaluated. Feyerabend's early work emerges as a continuation of Popper's philosophy of science, rather than as a contribution to the historical approach to science with which he is usually associated.
In his more notorious later work, Feyerabend claimed that there was, and should be, no such thing as the scientific method. The roots of Feyerabend's 'epistemological anarchism' are exposed and the weaknesses of his cultural relativism are brought out.

Throughout the book, Preston discusses the influence of Feyerabend's thought on contemporary philosophers and traces his stimulating but divided legacy. The book will be of interest to students of philosophy, methodology, and the social sciences.

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word/world relations (such as reference) is not in keeping with Feyerabend’s philosophy. Chapter 7 Theoretical Pluralism 1  As we saw in ch. 5, Feyerabend originally thought that Popper was not incriminated, since Popper apparently saw the essential role of alternative theories in the process of testing ([1962a], p. 32). But Feyerabend, probably under the influence of Lakatos, changed his mind, and in the reprinted varsion of this paper (PP1, p. 47n) he takes Popper to task for not endorsing

perform the function of refutation to the extent that they are informed by high-level theories. In Feyerabend’s argument for theoretical pluralism it is important to recognize, once again, the influence of the contextual theory of meaning: [J]ust as the meaning of a term is not an intrinsic property of it, but is dependent upon the way in which the term has been incorporated into a theory, in the same manner the content of a whole theory (and thereby again the meaning of the descriptive terms

concepts provide a means of identifying the subjects common to rival theories, not because these concepts are phenomenalistic, but because they are explanatory as well as descriptive, only very vaguely so’ (Short [1980], p. 323).1 Common-sense concepts are still theory-laden, but the theory they are laden with is the very indeterminate one called ‘common sense’. This line of argument ties in with Feigl’s familiar idea (mentioned in chapter 3) that ordinary-language observation-statements are

complaint might seem particularly pressing against claim 5, where a diagnosis of incommensurability might look promising. Eliminativists may respond by claiming, as Feyerabend would once have done, that even incommensurability would not preclude comparison. All it precludes, on this view, is what Paul Churchland calls the ‘point-by-point semantic comparison’ of theories. Such comparison, it would then be argued, is not necessary for an overall estimate of scientific merit. The trouble with this

of science shows that there is only one ‘principle’ that does not inhibit progress: 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. (AM1, p. 28, AM3 pp. 18–19) This epistemological (better, methodological) ‘anarchism’ is asserted to be both more humanitarian and more conducive to scientific progress than its rationalist alternatives. Anarchism is the only advice which can be embodied in a

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