|"We want to liberate people so that they can smile. Shall we be able to do this if we ourselves have forgotten how to smile and are frowning on those who still remember? Shall we then not spread another disease, comparable to the one we want to remove, the disease of puritanical self-righteousness? Do not object that dedication and humour do not go together - Socrates is an excellent example to the contrary."|
Illustration for a Dissertation in Philosophy by Eugene Lashchyk Paul Feyerabend (1924 – 1994 ) is the Austrian-born philosopher of science best known for his anarchistic view of science and his rejection of the existence of universal methodological rules. He worked for most of his career as a professor of philosophy - not a scientist - at the University of California (1958–1989). At various times he also lived in Britain, New Zealand, Italy and Switzerland. His best known works are Against Method (1975), Science in a Free Society (1978) and Farewell to Reason (1987).
Feyerabend is a 'Key Thinker' for this site; We recall too, where many of the biographers fail to, his wit and humour, and his oppostion to bland, repetitious waffle.
Can and should we formulate a "crude and superficial" critique of Science?
Methodology has by now become so crowded with empty sophistication that it is extremely difficult to perceive the simple errors at the basis. It is like fighting the hydra - cut off one ugly head, and eight formalizations take its place. In this situation the only answer is superficiality: when sophistication loses content then the only way of keeping in touch with reality is to be crude and superficial. This is what I intend to be. 1
Where are the refutations of 'the irrational'?
You say we can criticize myths by comparing them with a 'bulk of sound scientific knowledge'. I take this to mean that for every myth you want to criticize there exists a highly confirmed scientific theory, or a set of highly confirmed scientific theories that contradicts the myth and belongs to the 'bulk'. Now if you look at the matter a little more closely you will have to admit that specific theories incompatible with an interesting myth are extremely hard.to find. Where is the theory that is incompatible with this idea that rain-dances bring rain?2
Against Scientific Orthodoxy
Against the tyranny of Scientific ‘facts'
Scientific "facts" are taught at a very early age and in the very same manner in which religious "facts" were taught only a century ago. There is no attempt to waken the critical abilities of the pupil so that he may be able to see things in perspective. At the universities the situation is even worse, for indoctrination is here carried out in a much more systematic manner. Criticism is not entirely absent. Society, for example, and its institutions, are criticised most severely and often most unfairly and this already at the elementary school level. But science is excepted from the criticism. In society at large the judgement of the scientist is received with the same reverence as the judgement of bishops and cardinals was accepted not too long ago. The move towards "demythologization," for example, is largely motivated by the wish to avoid any clash between Christianity and scientific ideas. If such a clash occurs, then science is certainly right and Christianity wrong. 3
Pursue this investigation further and you will see that science has now become as oppressive as the ideologies it had once to fight. Do not be misled by the fact that today hardly anyone gets killed for joining a scientific heresy. … Heretics in science are still made to suffer from the most severe sanctions this relatively tolerant civilization has to offer [for] science has become rigid, that it has ceased to be an instrument of change and liberation.
[People claim that] science deserves a special position because it has produced results . This is an argument only if it can be taken for granted that nothing else has ever produced results. Now it may be admitted that almost everyone who discusses the matter makes such an assumption….
[Yet we] have become acquainted with methods of medical diagnosis and therapy which are effective (and perhaps even more effective than the corresponding parts of Western medicine) and which are yet based on an ideology that is radically different from the ideology of Western science.
...By now everyone knows that you can earn a lot of money and respect and perhaps even a Nobel Prize by becoming a scientist, so many will become scientists. They will become scientists without having been taken in by the ideology of science, they will be scientists because they have made a free choice. But has not much time been wasted on unscientific subjects and will this not detract from their competence once they have become scientists? Not at all! The progress of science, of good science depends on novel ideas and on intellectual freedom: science has very often been advanced by outsiders (remember that Bohr and Einstein regarded themselves as outsiders).