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Record Type: Review   ID: 177

Against Method (3rd ed.).

Feyerabend, Paul

I think of Feyerabend as a "firebrand," as one who is not afraid to criticize tradition but also one who proposes creative (and also sensible) replacements. I do not find him easy to read, but many writers worth reading are not. In part this is because they are forging new ground. Certainly that is the case with Feyerabend. He describes what science does, not what it is supposed to do. However, how science is done is subject to change, hence, he proposes that science can be helped by consulting nonscientists. This third edition has been pruned and his arguments about science honed and extended, but perhaps the best reason for reading this edition is it includes the English-language version of the Preface to the Chinese edition. Here he takes the reader point by point, through the book’s contents. This is very helpful, because the 20 chapters do not have titles, and thus do not provide a framework for the book. This is probably an outgrowth of the fact that he originally wrote the book as a letter to his friend Imrys Lakatos. Thus it is not an organized treatise but a spontaneously developed communication that proceeds, sometimes doubles back, and goes off on sideroads. but the main thesis, in his own words, is the following: "The events, procedures and results that constitute the sciences have no common structure. ... [Thus] scientific successes cannot be explained in a simple way" (p. 1) and "the success of ‘science’ cannot be used as an argument for treating as yet unsolved problems in a standardized way" (p. 2).

Therefore, domains of investigation such as those compromising anomalous experiences such as are studied in parapsychology and ufology would do well to start from scratch and develop approaches geared to their data and the cultural lore associated with the subject matter and especially their own imaginations rather than importing methods that have succeeded in other fields and using them in their research. Even if they develop very new approaches they will still be scientists! For, according to Feyerabend, there is not one way of doing science.

Publisher Information:New York: Verso, 1993. 279p. Ind: 273-279
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