(This photograph was taken by W.J. Broad and appeared in the article ‘Paul Feyerabend: Science and the Anarchist’, Science vol. 206, 2 Nov 1979).
Sometimes we are doing nothing special, living peacefully, cultivating and expressing our individuality – when suddenly we are picked up and subjected to the rules of some external authority. This happens not only in the practical world of everyday life in society, but also in the world of ideas, including philosophy.
Feyerabend remarks that this is what happened to him when he published AGAINST METHOD: he was picked up and examined by the “intellctuals”, and subjected to their rules of judgement. They explained all his errors and shortcomings, then put him down and went on with their business.
Feyerabend’s philosophy is a vital protest against the arrogance of specialists parading as intellectuals, against the hegemony of their system of judgement, and against all forms of universalism and essentialism. He prefers sympathy, which is a response to the concrete individual in his or her (or its, for he includes animals) context.
This privileging of kindness and sympathy over abstract motivations is the well-spring of Feyerabend’s insistence that he is not a philosopher. Paradoxically, this is part of makes him a great philosopher, one who breaks the rules not out of “provocation” but because he has not the slightest interest in allowing his conduct and thought to be governed by the abstract stipulations of lifeless thinkers. Sympathy and invention create their own rules.