In This Article Paul Feyerabend

  • Introduction
  • Later Works

Philosophy Paul Feyerabend
by
John Preston
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0046

Introduction

Paul Feyerabend (b. 1924–d. 1994), whose productive career lasted forty-five years, wrote on a plethora of philosophical issues, although much of his work concerned the nature and role of science. He was no narrowly trained or narrowly focused academic, though. His time as a student was divided among the studies of singing, stage management, theater, Italian, harmony, piano, physics, mathematics, astronomy, history, and sociology. He became a student of philosophy only after having earned his doctorate in the subject. His career as a philosopher was an accident, and he did not always see himself as a philosopher. Indeed, Feyerabend seemed to hold the interest and opinion of those who were not professional philosophers in higher regard than those of his academic peers. Nevertheless, he forged for himself a reputation as an important philosopher of science, being very knowledgeable about a range of sciences and very keen to deflate what he saw as pompous, overinflated, or ill-informed estimations of the epistemic and social virtues of the sciences, whether expressed by professional philosophers or by others.

Early Works

Feyerabend’s doctoral dissertation (Feyerabend 1951) was under the influence of logical positivism. His first published papers (e.g., Feyerabend 1955) bear the influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (Elizabeth Anscombe had allowed him to read her English translation while she was working on it; New York: Macmillan, 1953). This influence was quickly submerged, though, under that of the scientific “realism” that Feyerabend imbibed from Ludwig Boltzmann, Walter Hollitscher, Karl Popper, and others. From 1956 until about 1970 Feyerabend was mainly concerned with forging his own version of realism while at the same time trying to show that many of the scientific thinkers who interested him were antirealists, not because of some general philosophical commitment to “positivism” but because they had specific “physical arguments” against realistic interpretations of the leading physical theories of the day. Feyerabend 1956 is a defense of the idea that philosophy should be scientific rather than merely “analytic.”

  • Feyerabend, Paul. “Zur Theorie der Basissätze.” PhD diss., University of Vienna, 1951.

    E-mail Citation »

    Feyerabend’s doctoral dissertation (On the theory of basic statements), which he himself described as consisting of notes he had taken while he was the student leader of the philosophical circle centered around Viktor Kraft (himself a survivor from the Vienna Circle of logical positivists).

  • Feyerabend, Paul. “Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations.” Philosophical Review 64.3 (1955): 449–483.

    DOI: 10.2307/2182211E-mail Citation »

    States a philosophical theory of meaning that is supposedly attacked throughout Wittgenstein’s book, shows how it is criticized by Wittgenstein, and states Wittgenstein’s own position “without implying that Wittgenstein intended to develop a philosophical theory (he did not)” (p. 99).

  • Feyerabend, Paul. “A Note on the Paradox of Analysis.” Philosophical Studies 7.6 (1956): 92–96.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF02221761E-mail Citation »

    The usual solutions to the paradox of analysis assume that a difference of the triviality values of otherwise synonymous expressions indicates a difference of meaning. Feyerabend discusses two solutions that retain this assumption but urges that dropping it leads to “a very simple and satisfactory solution of the paradox” (p. 94).

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