Sunday, May 10, 2009

99 Paul Feyerabend

"Sussex University: the start of the Autumn Term, 1974.(...) During the following weeks of that term, and for the rest of his year as a visiting lecturer, Feyerabend demolished virtually every traditional academic boundary.

He held no idea and no person sacred. With unprecedented energy and enthusiasm he discussed anything from Aristotle to the Azande. How does science differ from witchcraft? Does it provide the only rational way of cognitively organizing our experience?

What should we do if the pursuit of truth cripples our intellects and stunts our individuality? Suddenly epistemology became an exhilarating area of investigation."

This is Paul Feyerabend, as a student experienced him.

Feyerabend planned the construction of a debate volume together with Imre Lakatos, entitiled "For and Against Method". Lakatos would put forward the “rationalist” case that there was an identifiable set of rules of scientific method and Feyerabend would attack it.

The rationalist part of the book was never written due to the unexpected death of Lakatos. In 1975 Feyerabend published "Against Method". He motivated his work with these words: "One of my motives for writing Against Method was to free people from the tyranny of philosophical obfuscators and abstract concepts such as “truth”, “reality”, or “objectivity”, which narrow people's vision and ways of being in the world."

After 98 philosophers, I think, we really have reached this stage: to free us from those rigid concepts. To see what this means let's have a closer look at Feyerabend's ideas.

It was Kuhn idea of incommensurabilty of theories that led Feyerabend to abandon his Popperian views. Popper's idea was that the growth of knowledge was achieved by a step by step falcifying of theories.

This idea of facification is either derived from experience or the product of our rationality. If Popper would have accepted the first option, then he would have introduced induction as the basis of his theory.

But that was just the issue he put to debate: the inadequacy of induction. Popper rejects innate ideas strictly so called but believes that we appoach the world with innate propensities among which a general expectation of regularity. A rationalist point of view.

Against this scientific method Feyerabend goes to war. He also abandons Kuhn's view that there is one ruling theory in science which is dethroned by another one. He proposes a theoretical pluralism in stead of this Kuhnian monism.

This approach, the theoretical pluralism, led Feyerabend to antirealism and relativism. He dropped the traditional opinion that a theory is good as long as it fits the facts.

There are no facts, he says, because all factual statements are connected with a theory. In other words, a statement only becomes meaningfull within the context of its theory. The meaning of a factual statement is not embeded in the truth of an independent reality.

It is embeded in the conventions of linguistic and social activity, which is itself again a reflection of what we believe about reality, about the world. Eventually facts are depending on what people believe.

Based on this view he proposes to abolish the old, untenable model of verifying theories by 'facts'. In stead we should develop as many as possible competing theories to compare them with eachother.

Next we choose that theory that offers us the best insight, or, as I would say, works the best. And just like I mentioned in the Kuhn discussion, here too an unmistakenly pragmatic touch.

Feyerabend expanded his theoretical pluralism with methodological pluralism or 'epistemological anarchism' as he called it himself. In our search for competing theories there is not a single certified rule or method, on which we can rely to get good results. Thus in Feyerabend's epistemology 'anything goes'.

The criticism with which his views were received by the scientific establishement was fierce and Feyerabend was shocked to be accused of being aggressive and nasty, so he replied by accusing his accusers of the very same thing.

Let me end with a quote from the superb article in
"Feyerabend came to be seen as a leading cultural relativist, not just because he stressed that some theories are incommensurable, but also because he defended relativism in politics as well as in epistemology.

His denunciations of aggressive Western imperialism, his critique of science itself, his conclusion that “objectively” there may be nothing to choose between the claims of science and those of astrology, voodoo, and alternative medicine, as well as his concern for environmental issues ensured that he was a hero of the anti-technological counter-culture."

For me Feyerabend is part of the logical outcome of our journey along our 100 philosophers. We only have Quine left. We'll see how he fits into the picture.

The Discussion

[13:27] herman Bergson: this concludes my lecture on Feyerabend
[13:27] hope63 Shepherd: omg.. this is opening pandora's box.. and i can see our discussion go to "anything goes" lol
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: I'm Sorry! i missed it just got back from out of town
[13:28] herman Bergson: I'll try to keep it under control Hope :-)
[13:28] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:28] hope63 Shepherd: grin...
[13:28] herman Bergson: Yes many of you were late.....
[13:28] Ze Novikov: sorry
[13:28] Ze Novikov: log in probs
[13:28] hope63 Shepherd: i'll refill my galss sit bac k and listen:)
[13:29] Samuel Okelly: :)
[13:29] Cailleach Shan: I see he lived in my country for a while Herman... wise man.
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:29] herman Bergson: Popper, Cailleach
[13:30] herman Bergson: In fact he was a revolutionary philosopher of science..
[13:30] Cailleach Shan: It's quite a scary philosophy.... anything goes...
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: funny how Feyerbend brings Timothy Leary to my mind
[13:30] hope63 Shepherd: seems to help the mind to live on a small island lost inthe far seas:)
[13:30] herman Bergson: he shocked the establishment
[13:30] Ze Novikov: smiles
[13:30] herman Bergson: But you dont seem to be that shocked at all..^_^
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: did hen really understand the compexity of what is called science....
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: some of the earlier philosophers were shocking at their time
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: lolol
[13:32] Cailleach Shan: I see he has been compared with Bruce Lee!!!
[13:32] hope63 Shepherd: marquis de sade was shocking the society.. but was never seen as a philosopher:)
[13:32] hope63 Shepherd: but: one could add him just as schiller was added to the list..
[13:33] herman Bergson: Let me rephrase Feyerabend
[13:33] herman Bergson: He holds the view that epistemologically we only have theories
[13:33] herman Bergson: what we call facts are only 'facts' within the context of these theories
[13:34] Ze Novikov: remarkably logical...
[13:34] Era Lucas: didn't he say that philosophy cannot provide methods for science?
[13:34] Ninjah Valeeva: In abstraction all goes
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: What about personal experience...
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: myabe he was just a protagonist, and used madness to provoke thought about the staus quo
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes Era...that is another thing he said
[13:34] Era Lucas: nor can it describe it
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: isn't that what most of us have been saying for about 45 philosophers?????
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:34] herman Bergson: Popper came up with a Logic of Scientific Discovery
[13:35] herman Bergson: Feyerabend rejects that logic...any theory goes
[13:35] Ninjah Valeeva: Can you give us an exemple ?
[13:36] Apmel Ibbetson: wasn´t it any methology goes?
[13:36] herman Bergson: Feyerabends idea was that we should develop as many theories as possible and just pick the best...
[13:36] Ninjah Valeeva: Yes !
[13:36] herman Bergson: For instance....psychology or astrology, whatever works best
[13:36] Ninjah Valeeva: I understand
[13:36] hope63 Shepherd: lets be clear-- without the 98 philosophers we learned about.. feyerabend would not be here tonight
[13:37] Era Lucas: i think he was against theories because they limit the progress in science
[13:37] herman Bergson: That is true Hope...he was number 99 in the row
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd:
[13:37] Ninjah Valeeva: A lot of theory and find the best ...
[13:37] herman Bergson: What we see here is a relativist
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: no.. i was right after all:)
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: sometimes i am:)
[13:38] Kay Uggla is waving to professor bergson; I am here now
[13:38] Ninjah Valeeva: It is like the research of solution to resolve a problem
[13:38] Apmel Ibbetson: I thought his idea was that any methology can be used..not that any theory is right
[13:38] herman Bergson: Hello Kay :-)
[13:38] Ze Novikov: does he say anything about the development of theories?
[13:38] Kay Uggla is waving
[13:39] Ninjah Valeeva: For to be able to see ways we could not think about
[13:39] herman Bergson: Two remarks..
[13:39] hope63 Shepherd: ari.. sam.. i feel that you are realy thinking hard about what to say:)
[13:39] herman Bergson: Apmel and Ze
[13:39] Cailleach Shan: I like what he says about "People's perception of reality is influenced by various rules'
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: sounds like he believed that any theoy that fit your beliefs was correct
[13:40] Samuel Okelly: :)
[13:40] herman Bergson: Indeed Apmel, any methodology is accepted to formulate and test theories
[13:40] herman Bergson: and these theories....human fantasy and imagination....there is no rule
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: a coat of many colors
[13:40] Cailleach Shan: What came first.... the theory or the belief?
[13:41] herman Bergson: And I dont think he would say that theories are right...only that they give us the insight we are searching for
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: observation of facts lead to believes i think..
[13:41] Apmel Ibbetson: ok..I read him in the seventies..
[13:41] herman Bergson: A theory is a belief, Cailleach
[13:42] herman Bergson: too..only now I really understand his impact
[13:42] Apmel Ibbetson: are right of course :-)
[13:42] herman Bergson smiles
[13:42] herman Bergson: I dont know Apmel
[13:42] Ninjah Valeeva: Many beliefs are available then we can use all
[13:43] MarieAntoinette Baroque: crashed
[13:43] hope63 Shepherd: talking about impact.. do you think that todays philosophers have les impact on society than lets say 15000 years ago?
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes in fact Feyerabend would agree with that
[13:43] hope63 Shepherd:
[13:43] herman Bergson: But just like with Kuhn...he is pragmatic regarding theories
[13:44] Ninjah Valeeva: A belief is not a jail
[13:44] Apmel Ibbetson: ok..but wasn´t his greatest impact to question THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD
[13:44] Ninjah Valeeva: just a way we try
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: a belief doesn't ask for answers.. :)
[13:45] herman Bergson: Yes it was Apmel...and the criticism he got for it was severe
[13:45] herman Bergson: He rejected Popper's views, which were standard methodology then
[13:46] herman Bergson: He opened the gates for alternative theories....for instance alternative medicin
[13:46] Samuel Okelly: wouldn't it a contradiction to state “facts are depending on what people believe”? surely it is not logical for “facts” to be relative (in the same way as any given belief)?
[13:46] hope63 Shepherd: i'm at loss here.. cern just reopened the tunnel.. what criticism have we to the scientific methods they apply..
[13:47] Ninjah Valeeva: Medicin is a good exemple
[13:47] herman Bergson: Statements of facts get their meaning only within the context of a theory about a certain field
[13:48] herman Bergson: For instance...the statement: that was a homerun gets its meaning within the context of baseball
[13:49] herman Bergson: what he was questioning was the fundamental empiricist idea that we have sense data and convert these into propositions which can be true or false
[13:49] Apmel Ibbetson: a dog doesn´t see the same thing we see on a computerscreen
[13:49] herman Bergson: Like the logical positivists claimed there were basic propositions
[13:50] Apmel Ibbetson: but that doesn´t mean that the pixels are not there
[13:50] herman Bergson: does that answer your remark, Samuel?
[13:50] Samuel Okelly: not quiet as I see a distinct difference when speaking of “Statements of facts” (a reflection on an understanding of the fact )and precisely “the fact”
[13:50] Ninjah Valeeva: We are like dogs in front of a screen when we look at the univers
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: I will be glad to read the whole lecture about this man, sounds so interesting
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: a ninjah
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: true
[13:51] herman Bergson: the word pixel only gets its meaning within the theories of computer science...a dog doesnt know such a theory, so he doesnt see pixels....maybe he sees light and dark
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: facts and beliefs may coincidentally be the same, but all he folks having nonfactual beliefs are like the story of the 'Emperor's New Clothes'
[13:51] Apmel Ibbetson: we don´t see pixels either..we see you
[13:52] herman Bergson: have a theory about reality..and within that context you identify a buch of pixels as me..^_^
[13:52] Ninjah Valeeva: With science we build the world with theory
[13:52] Cailleach Shan: lol.... it's only a theory.
[13:52] Apmel Ibbetson: ok
[13:52] Ninjah Valeeva: We build a world
[13:53] Ninjah Valeeva: but perhaps there is nothing
[13:53] Apmel Ibbetson: poor dog don´t have that thoery
[13:53] herman Bergson: Yes Apmel...
[13:53] Era Lucas: how about theories of mind? Or how we perceive ourselves?
[13:53] hope63 Shepherd: why not limit ourselfs to: we build:)?
[13:53] herman Bergson: Otherwise the dog could watch TV too and watch Lassie or Snoopy dog
[13:54] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: my cat did that
[13:54] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:54] Apmel Ibbetson: that was my point :-)
[13:54] Ninjah Valeeva: Yes i know animals who recognize things in the tv !
[13:54] hope63 Shepherd: herman.. they do.. there are places for dogs like that.,. in the us..
[13:54] Samuel Okelly: so is Feyerabend denying the existence of objective truth or our merely a relative inability of perceptions?
[13:54] herman Bergson: Yes I know....
[13:54] herman Bergson: But we dont know what the dog sees
[13:55] herman Bergson: but according to our theories on the central nervoussystem we can infer what it sees
[13:55] Cailleach Shan: Some animals do have a level of self awareness and can recognise themselves in a mirror.
[13:55] Ninjah Valeeva: But all that is a theory !
[13:55] Era Lucas: he is denying the claim science makes to the truth
[13:55] hope63 Shepherd: but sam.. who are we to deny an objective truth:)
[13:55] herman Bergson: Yes Era. that he definitely does
[13:56] Cailleach Shan: So Feyerabend seems to be saying that we invent our own existence.
[13:56] Apmel Ibbetson: actually science never say we have the truth..only we have a good effective theory
[13:56] herman Bergson: if you interpret the concept of truth as some monolithic thing
[13:56] Era Lucas: but how about our theories of mind ?
[13:56] herman Bergson: Indeed Apmel, Feyerabend would agree with that
[13:56] Apmel Ibbetson: truth is for religions
[13:57] hope63 Shepherd: no questions asked..:)
[13:57] herman Bergson: Belief in (the) truth is for religion I would say :-)
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: have to go
[13:57] herman Bergson: theories of mind are the nicest puzzle Era....
[13:57] Ninjah Valeeva: When i have headacke i know it is tru
[13:57] Ninjah Valeeva: true
[13:58] herman Bergson: Yes one will question your private mind
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: see you sunday i hope for 100!!!!!!
[13:58] herman Bergson: Ok Gemma....:-0
[13:58] AristotleVon Doobie: 'truth is', like 'I am'....we just are just in constant search of it
[13:58] Ninjah Valeeva: Thank you so much !
[13:58] Qwark Allen: \o/
[13:58] herman Bergson: Bye Qwark
[13:58] Qwark Allen: ty herman
[13:59] Qwark Allen: got to read the begining of class to understand it better
[13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Gemma
[13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: Qwark
[13:59] Qwark Allen: cya sunday
[13:59] Qwark Allen: cya ari
[13:59] Qwark Allen: :-)
[13:59] Samuel Okelly: bye gemm, Q
[13:59] Cailleach Shan: cu Q
[13:59] herman Bergson: ok..will be on the blog soon
[13:59] Ninjah Valeeva: Au revoir all
[13:59] hope63 Shepherd: i suppose there will be a test for the 101.. i mean who will qualify for hermans next lessons ..:)
[13:59] Ze Novikov: smiles
[13:59] Ninjah Valeeva: Can we have the adress of the blog ?
[14:00] Apmel Ibbetson: what´s the blogs url Herman?
[14:00] herman Bergson: Yes indeed Hope, I am still waiting for your paper...:-)
[14:00] herman Bergson:
[14:00] Ninjah Valeeva: Ty Herman
[14:00] Apmel Ibbetson: thx
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: lol.. i never give anything of what i say or do in
[14:01] herman Bergson: Well....philosopher 101 will be me....^_^
[14:01] Samuel Okelly: :)
[14:01] Ze Novikov: :))
[14:01] Cailleach Shan: Hey.... good one Herman.
[14:02] herman Bergson: After Quine who is next, I'll give a statement of my personal conclusions after redoing these 100 philosophers
[14:02] hope63 Shepherd: on all the students too? grin..
[14:02] Ze Novikov: lovely
[14:02] herman Bergson: Besides I am in the midst of my research on female philosophers
[14:03] herman Bergson: and I can tell you that it looks very promissing
[14:03] herman Bergson: fascinating subject
[14:03] Ze Novikov: :))
[14:03] Ninjah Valeeva: :-))
[14:03] herman Bergson: dont smile because it is a man saying this.....
[14:04] Ze Novikov: lol
[14:04] Cailleach Shan: We understand Herman..... we women have no problem studying the blokes.
[14:04] Apmel Ibbetson: haha
[14:04] herman Bergson: Thank you Cailleach :-)
[14:04] Samuel Okelly: thank you herman, i will go now and start rereading Feyerabend :) tc every1 :)
[14:05] AristotleVon Doobie: Alexandres Dumas said that a 'Man's mind is raised to the level of the women he associates with'
[14:05] Apmel Ibbetson: me too..bye all
[14:05] Apmel Ibbetson: thx herman
[14:05] Landra Beerbaum ist offline
[14:05] herman Bergson: You should read the article in the Stanford encyclopedia Samuel
[14:05] Ninjah Valeeva: Ty Herman
[[14:05] Ze Novikov: thank you Prof
[14:05] Samuel Okelly: i will do herman, thanks again! cheerio for now :)
[14:05] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation
[14:06] herman Bergson: and I feel honored to have half the court in my audience today
[14:06] Ze Novikov: BB everone
[14:06] herman Bergson: Bye Ze
[14:06] Sophia Trefusis nods her head at Monsieur Bergson
[14:06] Era Lucas: Thank you Herman
[14:06] herman Bergson: My pleasure Era
[14:06] herman Bergson: Be well Aristotle
[14:07] Cailleach Shan: Thanks again Herman..... Bye everyone.
[14:07] AristotleVon Doobie: Thnask you professr, good bye all
[14:07] MarieAntoinette Baroque: Please Herman,can I have an invite for your group?
[14:07] MarieAntoinette Baroque: This activity is interesting
[14:07] herman Bergson: sure...Madam
[14:07] Era Lucas: bye all
[14:07] herman Bergson: Bye Era
[14:08] Sophia Trefusis: Thank you for the lecture Herman it was most...enlightening
[14:08] MarieAntoinette Baroque: Thank you
[14:08] herman Bergson: My pleasure Lady Sophia

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-10-23 20:24:16

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