In considering the relation between Feyerabend and Popper in the 50s, an illmuminating comparison can be made with the relation between Nietzsche and Wagner. In both cases a younger thinker is transformed by his encounter with an older more successful, more established figure and then breaks away, later recounting the relation in negative terms. However, my interpretation is not Oedipal.

Nietzsche in later life presents this relation as having been based on suppression and on his own philosophical confusion. That is to say, Nietzsche at the time of the relation was aware of many negative traits of Wagner’s character but he suppressed (and to a certain extent repressed) that awareness because of what he thought was going on philosophically (and not just personally). His later re-writing of the relationship resembles Feyerabend’s re-writing of his relation with Popper, and for similar reasons.

Nietzsche decided that when he wrote positively about Wagner he was in fact describing himself, a “deep” self that would only become clearly manifest for him later. I think the same goes for Feyerabend, he revisits not just the events but what he thought was going on from a philosophical point of view at the time. KILLING TIME presents his more mature philosophical analysis of what was going on. The people he discusses remain real people, but they also become “symbols” in a story that presents the facts more accurately than archival research is capable of doing (the necessity of such symbols is described in his account of Pauli’s ideas in CONQUEST OF ABUNDANCE).

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  1. JH says:

    It is clear in Nietzche’s THE BIRTH OF TRAGEDY that he needed, and learned a lot initially from Wagner. Why do you think Feyerabend studied with Popper in the first place? I have not yet read Feyerabend dealing extensively with Popper’s philosophy, but only remarking against him in short passages. I know he decided to study under Popper as his mentor when Wittgenstein died and in KILLING TIME, he mentioned that Popper was not so keen on Feyerabend’s projects in quantum physics when he went to see him in London.


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