Reader beware: There are a lot of unpolished ideas here. Half baked thoughts, loosely connected associations, uninformed (but slowly becoming fully formed) opinions, pages waiting to be filled, and bullet points abound.

Against Method

Against Method is a book by Paul Feyerabend that I have only read excerpts of, just totalling around 30 pages. I had a hard time fully understanding his arguments.


  • Rules are meant to be broken.
  • Discoveries can be made by arguing against the opposite position. One can either strengthen the position further or contradicting the position and furthering knowledge.
    • Things that contradict science are often seen as breaking the rules.
    • Conflicting practices happen all the time.
    • Different practices may nudge the status quo in a different direction.
  • There are many factors in the development of a child that will shape their worldview. We do not learn things in a vacuum.
    • Reason is not innate, it is taught. Whatever conclusions that come out of reason, has it’s roots in indoctrination, so how can we trust that our conclusions are right?
    • Many “arguments” are taken for granted and just parroted by others.
  • When the status quo is questioned, it must either A) find another source of blame or else the status quo is not valid, or B) change in order to become valid.
  • You cannot create an idea without fully understanding it.
  • “Experimental foreplay” is necessary to prove an idea with evidence.
  • Language cannot sufficiently express new ideas because currently language will not have the words available to express something completely foreign.
    • Ideas may not fully explain what is actually happening, but they do explain the current circumstances.
    • Sophists say that language cannot describe what is real perfectly. It is just a matter of “human opinion.”
  • Moral judgement cannot be applied to progress in science.
  • Anarchy is key to achieving progress, even in science.
  • Science and reason cannot co-exist. They are also not the end all, be all.
    • Science is a reaction to rationality.
  • Historical vs participant position
    • “Ideal”/logical language vs how language is actually used
  • An observer position is more historical: all facts and details.
    • For example: The historical position on the Copernican Revolution would be concerned about the impacts on astronomers, whether astronomers changed their beliefs, and for those who did change, whether or not they were taken seriously.
    • They are the detached from the individual impacts and just want to know the what.
    • For example, Lessing tried to recreate the greats.
    • One cannot be objective taking this stance.
      • There are no objective value judgements.
  • A participant position focuses on the individual’s reactions and feels towards a circumstance, idea, practice, or institute.
    • For example: The participant position on the Copernican Revolution focuses on if the individual should take the idea seriously, whether or not they should study it, or if the idea has merit.
    • Participants may act out of opportunism.
    • For example, Gottesched drew inspiration for his works from the greats.
    • Practicing something may involve a lot of happenstance.
  • Pragmatists will experiment, to see where things may lead them.
    • They take the role of both the participant and the observer. They stay detached from the subject in order to observe, but also look at the practical implications of the subject.
      • This is ideal but hard to both stay detached and see the big picture.
    • Pragmatists recognize the ideal vs realization of a concept.
  • Rationalism is viewing things as objective.
    • For example, religion presents an absolute truth.
    • Common sense is not rationalism. There is different from “knowing” something is true and being able to prove it directly.
      • In Platonism, common sense is not sufficient when next to the “real thing.”
    • They may take things at the surface level and not examine their own beliefs. Using something vs examining something.
    • Reason disregards complex context.
  • Idealism vs naturalism: bad standards (naturalism) vs bad practices (idealism).
    • For example, maps may contain idealizations but any map is better than no map. Maps can changed and improved by reason to become accurate.
  • Idealism is when reason guides practice.
    • There is a desire for results but the results are often not practical or possible under current conditions.
  • Naturalism is when reason is informed by or describes practice.
    • There may be a lack of desire to improve their practices or may even regress in their practices.
  • Reason and practice are both practices themselves.

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