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Paul Karl Feyerabend

educator , writer

Paul Karl Feyerabend, Austrian writer, educator. Decorated Iron Cross; recipient Austrian President Sciences and Fine Arts award, 1952, Prize of Fregene (Italy), 1990; fellow Minnesota Center Philosophy of Science, 1956, 62, 64, 70, 76; National Science Foundation grantee, 1962, 65, 68, 76. Served to lieutenant German Army, 1942-1945. Member Busoni Society (executive vice president).

Background

Feyerabend, Paul Karl was born on January 13, 1924 in Vienna, Austria. Came to United States, 1958.

Education

Student, Vienna Museum Academy, Weimer; Doctor Phil., University Vienna, 1951; Student, University London, 1953; Doctor of Hebrew Literature (honorary), Loyola University, Chicago, 1970.

Career

Lecturer, Vienna Institute Sciences and Fine Arts, 1951-1956, Bristol (England) University, 1955-1959. Foreign consultant Library of Congress, Washington, 1952-1953. Associate professor philosophy University California, Berkeley, 1959-1962, professor, 1962-1990, Humanities Research fellow, 1972-1973, Humantities Research professor, 1975-1976.

Chairman department history and philosophy of science University College, London, 1968-1970, Free University Berlin, 1968-1970. Professor philosophy Yale University, New Haven, 1969-1970. Professor philosophy of science Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland, 1979-1990.

Special lecturer American Council of Learning, 1968-1969. Numerous visiting appointments in field and otherwise.

Works

Views

Feyerabend’s work in the 1950s and 1960s, much of it collected in his Philosophical Papers (1981), contained detailed studies in the development of the sciences. Along with Kuhn. Lakatos and Hesse, he was associated with the view that a historical perspective on scientific change can be at least as fruitful as any logical analysis of scientific methods. Independently of Kuhn, he was an originator of a historical thesis that there are frameworks of thought which arc incommensurable.

He believed that so-called scientific observation terms ‘are not merely theory-Wen.. but fully theoretical (observation statements have no "observational core". Or, to express it differently: there are only theoretical terms’. This provided one basis for his critique of empiricism, both in the philosophy of science and more widely.

Feyerabend’s later work, from Against Method

(1975), argued that changes in science cannot proceed according to any specific method.

That led him to increasingly strong attacks on what he saw as rationality and rationalism. He shares with MacIntyre a belief in ‘traditions’ which can be defended or criticized appropriately only in their own terms. He wrote in Science in a Free Society (1978): ‘There is.. hardly any difference between the members of a "primitive" tribe who defend their laws because they arc the law's of the gods.. and a rationalist who appeals to "objective" standards, except that the former know what they are doing and the latter does not’.

He has argued for the democratic control of science against its control by scientists, and took this case as far as its practical consequences in his interest in non-conventional medical treatment.

In his last work he acknowledged that he had relied on concepts such as ‘democracy’, ‘tradition’ and ‘relative truth’ which he had come to see to be as rigid as ‘truth’, ‘reality’ and ‘objectivity’, ‘which narrow people's vision and ways of being in the world’.

Feyerabend had no wish to be accepted as a respectable, academic, professional philosopher. His arguments against rationality, expressed in a violently polemical style, provoked the most extreme reactions. The fact that many of his detractors believe that his later writings cannot be taken seriously did not strike him as altogether negative.

Membership

Served to lieutenant German Army, 1942-1945. Member Busoni Society (executive vice president).