Let’s Make Science Work This Way

This is the first paragraph of Paul Feyerabend’s famous paper, “Consolations for the Specialist”. Its supportive tone deserves attention:


In the years 1960 and 1961 when Kuhn was a member of the philosophy department at the University of California in Berkeley I had the good fortune of being able to discuss with him various aspects of science. I have profited enormously from these discussions and I have looked at science in a new way ever since. Yet while I thought I recognized Kuhn’s problems; and while I tried to account for certain aspects of science to which he had drawn attention (the omnipresence of anomalies is one example); I was quite unable to agree with the theory of science which he himself proposed; and I was even less prepared to accept the general ideology which I thought formed the background of his thinking. This ideology, so it seemed to me, could only give comfort to the most narrowminded and the most conceited kind of specialism. It would tend to inhibit the advancement of knowledge. And it is bound to increase the anti-humanitarian tendencies which are such a disquieting feature of much of post-Newtonian science. On all these points my discussions with Kuhn remained inconclusive. More than once he interrupted a lengthy sermon of mine, pointing out that I had misunderstood him, or that our views were closer than I had made them appear. Now, looking back at out debates* as well as at the papers which Kuhn has published since his departure from Berkeley, I am not sure that this was the case. And I am fortified in my belief by the fact that almost every reader of Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (Princeton, 1962) interprets him as I do…

*Some of which were carried out in the now defunct Café Old Europe on Telegraph Avenue and greatly amused the other customers by their friendly vehemence.

There are many lessons to learn. First, we must have professional quarrels with each other. This is the essence of science and of our job. We must be ready to learn others’ views and thoughts and we should always be ready to defend our ideas. Without debates no progress is possible. Second, it always makes sense to study every aspect of a problem. If are there settled views on a problem, seem to be sorted out once and for all…? We are justified to look into these answers in order to find out whether they are correct or not.


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