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Paul Feyerabend

  • Paul Karl Feyerabend
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Feyerabend, Paul
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Paul Karl Feyerabend (German: [ˈfaɪɐˌʔaːbm̩t]; January 13, 1924 – February 11, 1994) was an Austrian philosopher best known for his work in the philosophy of science. He started his academic career as lecturer in the philosophy of science at the University of Bristol (1955–1958); afterwards, he moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught for three decades (1958–1989). At various points in his life, he held joint appointments at the University College London (1967–1970), the London School of Economics (1967), the FU Berlin (1968), Yale University (1969), the University of Auckland (1972, 1975), the University of Sussex (1974), and, finally, the ETH Zurich (1980–1990). He gave lectures and lecture series at the University of Minnesota (1958-1962), Stanford University (1967), the University of Kassel (1977) and the University of Trento (1992).

Feyerabend's most famous work is Against Method (1975), wherein he argued that there are no universally valid methodological rules for scientific inquiry. He also wrote on topics related to the politics of science in several essays and in his book Science in a Free Society (1978). Feyerabend's later works include Wissenschaft als Kunst (Science as Art) (1984), Farewell to Reason (1987), Three Dialogues on Knowledge (1991), and Conquest of Abundance (released posthumously in 1999) which collect essays from the 1970s until Feyerabend's death in 1994. The uncompleted draft of an earlier work was released posthumously, in 2016, as Philosophy of Nature. This work contains Feyerabend's reconstruction of the history of natural philosophy from the Homeric Period until the mid-20th century. In these works and other publications, Feyerabend wrote about numerous issues at the interface between history and philosophy of science and ethics, ancient philosophy, philosophy of art, political philosophy, medicine, and physics. Feyerabend's final work was his autobiography, entitled Killing Time, which he completed on his deathbed. Part of Feyerabend's extensive correspondences and unpublished materials has also been published after his death.

Paul Feyerabend is recognized as one of the most important philosophers of science of the 20th century. In a 2010 poll, he was ranked as the 8th most significant philosopher of science. He is often mentioned alongside Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos, and N.R. Hanson as a crucial figure in the historical turn in philosophy of science, and his work on scientific pluralism has been markedly influential on the Stanford School and on much contemporary philosophy of science. Feyerabend was also a significant figure in the sociology of scientific knowledge. His lectures were extremely well-attended, attracting international attention. His multifaceted personality is eloquently summarized in his obituary by Ian Hacking: "Humanists, in my old-fashioned sense, need to be part of both arts and sciences. Paul Feyerabend was a humanist. He was also fun."

In line with this humanistic interpretation and the concerns apparent in his later work, the Paul K. Feyerabend Foundation was founded in 2006 in his honor. The Foundation "...promotes the empowerment and wellbeing of disadvantaged human communities. By strengthening intra and inter-community solidarity, it strives to improve local capacities, promote the respect of human rights, and sustain cultural and biological diversity." In 1970, the Loyola University of Chicago assigned to Feyerabend its Doctor of Humane Letters Degree honoris causa. Asteroid (22356) Feyerabend is named after him.

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Austrian-born philosopher of science.

Last modified: 2020-10-11 (revision #32166)


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