Darwin-L Message Log 7:23 (March 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<7:23>From ahouse@hydra.rose.brandeis.edu  Thu Mar 10 09:26:43 1994

Date: Thu, 10 Mar 1994 10:28:42 -0500
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
From: ahouse@hydra.rose.brandeis.edu (Jeremy Creighton Ahouse)
Subject: Feyerabend's Obituary - New York Times

>From the philosophy listserv:

Feyerabend's Obituary

     Paul K. Feyerabend's obituary from the Times is here quoted in
its entirety.


     Saxon, Wolfgang.  "Paul K. Feyerabend, 70, Anti-Science
     Philosopher,"  New York Times,  8 March 1994, p. B8.

          Prof. Paul Karl Feyerabend, a gadfly philosopher of
     science who asserted that scientists have no particular
     claims on truth, died on Feb. 11 in Geneva.  He was 70.
          He died of a brain tumor, said officials at the
     University of California at Berkeley, where he taught
     from 1959 until he reached emeritus status in 1990.  He
     held a concurrent appointment at the Polytechnic
     Institute of Zurich.
          Dr. Feyerabend died just days after finishing the
     final chapter of his autobiography, on which he had
     worked for more than a decade.  University officials in
     Berkeley said his friends reported that he was still able
     to write with his right hand despite growing paralysis.
          Dr. Feyerabend held that the rationality of science
     did not really exist and that the special status and
     prestige of scientists are based on their own claims to
     objective truth.  He once said that "conceited and
     intimidating scholars, covered with honorary degrees and
     university chairs," can be tripped up by a lawyer able to
     look through the jargon and expose the ignorance behind
     dazzling displays of omniscience.
          "Scientists have more money, more authority, more
     sex appeal than the deserve."  Dr. Feyerabend said in a
     1979 article in Science magazine, "and the most stupid
     procedures and the laughable results are surrounded with
     an aura of excellence.  It is time to cut them down to
          To that end, he became a prolific author of articles
     and books.  His best known works are "Against Method"
     (1975) and "Farewell to Reason" (1987), a collection of
          Dr. Feyerabend was one of the most radical
     challengers to the long-accepted notion that science is
    rational and progressive.  If there was progress in
    science, he insisted, it was because scientist broke
    every principle in the rationalists' rule book and
    adopted the principle that "anything goes."
        Individual theories are not consistent with one
    another, Dr. Feyerabend held, and since there is no
    single "scientific method," scientific success flows not
    only from rational arguments, but also from a mixture of
    subterfuge, rhetoric, conjecture, politics and
          He was born in Vienna and served in World War II as
    an officer in the German Army, winning the Iron Cross for
    bravery.  In 1945, while fighting the Red Army on the
    Eastern front, he was shot in the back;  the wound left
    him with a severe limp.
         He studied history, physics and astronomy at the
    University  of Vienna, where he received his Phd. in
    1951  Dr. Feyerabend then became an admirer and protege
    of the philosopher Karl Popper of the London School of
    Economics, whose scientific rationalism he later tried to
          Besides his teaching posts at Berkeley and Zurich,
    he taught at the University of Bristol in England, the
    Institute of Fine Arts and Science in Vienna, Yale
    University and the Free University in Berlin.
          He is survived by his wife, Grazia Borrini

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