4 Jan 2016

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Paul Feyerabend

In 1970 Imre Lakatos, one of the best friends I ever had, cornered me
at a party. ‚Paul,‘ he said, ‚you have such strange ideas. Why don’t you
write them down? I shall write a reply, we publish the whole thing and
I promise you – we shall have lots of fun.‘ I liked the suggestion and
started working. The manuscript of my part of the book was finished
in 1 972 and I sent it to London. There it disappeared under rather
mysterious circumstances. lmre Lakatos, who loved dramatic
gestures, notified Interpol and, indeed, Interpol found my manuscript
and returned it to me. I reread it and made some final changes.
In February 1 974, only a few weeks after I had finished my revision, I
was informed of Imre’s death. I published my part of our common
enterprise without his response. A year later I published a second
volume, Science in a Free Society, containing additional material and
replies to criticism.
This history explains the form of the book. It is not a systematic
treatise; it is a letter to a friend and addresses his idiosyncrasies. For
example, Imre Lakatos was a rationalist, hence rationalism plays a
large role in the book. He also admired Popper and therefore Popper
occurs much more frequently than his ‚objective importance‘ would
warrant. Imre Lakatos, somewhat jokingly, called me an anarchist
and I had no objection to putting on the anarchist’s mask. Finally,
lmre Lakatos loved to embarrass serious opponents with jokes and
irony and so I, too, occasionally wrote in a rather ironical vein. An
example is the end of Chapter 1: ‚anything goes‘ is not a ‚principle‘ I
hold – I do not think that ‚principles‘ can be used and fruitfully
discussed outside the concrete research situation they are supposed
to affect – but the terrified exclamation of a rationalist who takes a
closer look at history. Reading the many thorough, serious,
longwinded and thoroughly misguided criticisms I received after
publication of the first English edition I often recalled my exchanges
with Imre; how we would both have laughed had we been able to read
these effusions together.
The new edition merges parts ofAgainstMethodwith excerpts from
Science in a Free Society. I have omitted material no longer of interest,
added a chapter on the trial of Galileo and a chapter on the notion of
reality that seems to be required by the fact that knowledge is part of a
complex historical process, eliminated mistakes, shortened the
argument wherever possible and freed it from some of its earlier
idiosyncrasies. Again I want to make two points: first, that science can
stand on its own feet and does not need any help from rationalists,
secular humanists, Marxists and similar religious movements; and,
secondly, that non-scientific cultures, procedures and assumptions
can also stand on their own feet and should be allowed to do so, if this
is the wish of their representatives. Science must be protected from
ideologies; and societies, especially democratic societies, must be
protected from science. This does not mean that scientists cannot
profit from a philosophical education and that humanity has not and
never will profit from the sciences. However, the profits should not
be imposed; they should be examined and freely accepted by the
parties of the exchange. In a democracy scientific institutions,
research programmes, and suggestions must therefore be subjected
to public control, there must be a separation of state and science just
as there is a separation between state and religious institutions, and
science should be taught as one view among many and not as the one
and only road to truth and reality. There is nothing in the nature of
science that excludes such institutional arrangements or shows that
they are liable to lead to disaster.
None of the ideas that underlie my argument is new. My
interpretation of scientific knowledge, for example, was a triviality for
physicists like Mach, Boltzmann, Einstein and Bohr. But the ideas of
these great thinkers were distorted beyond recognition by the rodents
of neopositivism and the competing rodents of the church of’critical‘
rationalism. Lakatos was, after Kuhn, one of the few thinkers who
noticed the discrepancy and tried to eliminate it by means of a
complex and very interesting theory of rationality. I don’t think he has
succeeded in this. But the attempt was worth the effort; it has led to
interesting results in the history of science and to new insights into
the limits of reason. I therefore dedicate also this second, already
much more lonely version of our common work to his memory.
Earlier material relating to the problems in this book is now
collected in my Philosophical Papers. 1 Farewell to Reason2 contains
historical material, especially from the early history of rationalism in
the West and applications to the problems of today.

Berkeley, September 1 987