Gonzalo Munévar has started a new blog, Feyerabend’s Revolution, devoted to exploring the continuing revolutionary potential of the philosophy of Paul Feyerabend.
With Gonzalo Munevar, I too think that Paul Feyerabend is the best candidate for the epithet of “most valuable philosopher of the 20th Century“, although I would put Gilles Deleuze on an equal footing. Feyerabend’s philosophy is unjustly neglected for rather petty reasons of philosophical history. His arguments against a single fixed scientific method were initially resisted quite aggressively, giving rise to the image of Feyerabend as a crazy or a charlatan. Then many of his views were silently adopted as obvious, without much acknowledgement being given to Feyerabend’s writings.
This reception based on bitter resistance followed by placid acceptance gave rise to a new image of Feyerabend as someone who presented well-known and not very controversial ideas in a histrionic style. His ideas were assigned to the methodological disputes of the sixties and seventies, without much pertinence to the state of the discussion today. From crazy through histrion to has-been, Feyerabend has suffered the typical fate of the untimely philosopher. Yet it is this very untimeliness that assures his continuing value.
Despite the delayed acceptance of his theses (once they were reformulated in a more academically acceptable prose) and his post hoc vindication, Feyerabend’s more general arguments against the hegemony of the abstract approach and his genealogy of the rise of Rationalism in the West have, for the most part, not been treated as worthy of interest, and remain largely unknown. I think this part of his work is even more interesting, and of much relevance to the 21st Century as well.
Munévar does not present us with a hagiography, and intends not just to expound but to critically examine Feyerabend’s ideas:
Readers of this blog should not expect that I am just going to summarize Feyerabend’s views and provide them a few useful references. I will do some of that. But I am not going to refrain from criticizing him any less than I have done in print. And surely no less than when I used to sit across a restaurant table from him, or on the grass at Berkeley, with the Campanile looming large behind him (here).
In the latest of his posts, Munévar provides us with a very clear statement of the problems posed by the “relativism” (explicitly endorsed under that name) that Feyerabend defended during the period of transition from the epistemological anarchism of the early seventies to his pluralist realism of the late eighties. The underlying continuity is to be found in his ever deepening critique of the the tyranny of experts, of the abstractions of rationalism, and of the unchecked resort to the abstract approach in every domain.
The writings of Feyerabend are an integral part of my own personal “crap detector” in my reading of other philosophers. His clarity and simplicity of style empower us to read and to think undaunted by philosophical jargon, and his “counter-suggestible” spirit encourages us to pursue our ideas uncontaminated by scientistic prejudice. Feyerabend also helps me understand valuable, but obscure texts. I am heavily involved in reading French pluralists, and whenever I find a passage difficult I use Feyerabend’s ideas to explain it more simply.