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Paul Feyerabend

Paul Feyerabend (1924 - February 11, 1994) was an Austrian-born philosopher of science, who later emigrated to the US. He began as a follower of Karl Popper, but later went on to reject all attempts to discover rules underlying the scientific method. His most famous works include Against Method (published in 1975), and Farewell to Reason (collection of his papers published in 1987.)

He writes that descriptions of the scientific method often do not match how scientific discoveries have actually occurred in history. Feyerabend objected to any single prescriptive scientific method on the grounds that science has no single aim. Without a fixed ideology, or the introduction of religious tendencies, the only approach which does not inhibit progress (using whichever definition of progress you see fit) is "anything goes": "'anything goes' is not a 'principle' I hold [...] but the terrified exclamation of a rationalist who takes a closer look at history." (Feyerabend, 1975). Over time, his works came to be used as the basis for many literary deconstructionists, and some radical feminist writers, who claimed that science (and sometimes, even mathematics and logic itelf) were social constructions; in this view, science has no special claim to proving truth, and no more utility than any other way of thinking about the world.

More recently Feyerabend took umbrage at this misunderstanding and mis-use of his work: "How can an enterprise {science} depend on culture in so many ways, and yet produce such solid results? ....Movements that view quantum mechanics as a turning-point in thought - and that includes fly-by-night mystics, prophets of a New Age, and relativists of all sorts - get aroused by the cultural component and forget predictions and technology." (Source: Paul Feyerabend. Atoms and Consciousness', in Common Knowledge Vol. 1, No. 1 1992: 28-32)

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