Paul Feyerabend


January 24, 2022

Paul Karl Feyerabend (Vienna, 13 January 1924 - Genolier, 11 February 1994) was an Austrian philosopher and sociologist. Philosopher of science, he was born in Austria and later lived in the United Kingdom, USA, New Zealand, Italy and finally in Switzerland. Among his main works are Against the Method of 1975, Science in a Free Society (1978), Farewell to Reason (a collection of essays from 1987) and, published posthumously in 2002, Conquest of Abundance. Feyerabend became famous for his anarchist view of science and his denial of the existence of universal methodological rules. His work has had considerable importance in the history of the philosophy of science and the sociology of scientific knowledge.


Paul Feyerabend was born in 1924 in Vienna where he attended primary and high schools. During this time he got into the habit of reading a lot, developed an interest in the theater and took singing lessons. In April 1942 he graduated from high school and was drafted into the German Arbeitsdienst (compulsory work year). After an initial training in Pirmasens, Germany, he was assigned to a unit based in Quelerne en Bas, France. Feyerabend described the work he did during that time as monotonous: "We would move into the countryside, dig ditches, and return to fill them." After a brief abandonment he joined the army, volunteering at the officers' school. In his autobiography of him he wrote that he hoped the war would end before he finished his training as an officer. Things did not go like this: from December 1943 he served as an officer on the Eastern Front first in Yugoslavia and then in the north, was decorated with an Iron Cross and attained the rank of lieutenant. After the German army began its retreat as the Red Army advanced, Feyerabend was hit by three bullets while directing traffic during a firefight. It turned out that one of the bullets had hit him in the spine. As a result he was left impotent (which however did not preclude sexuality) and for the rest of his life he needed the cane to walk and often felt severe pain. He spent the rest of the war treating his wounds. When the war ended he found a temporary job as a playwright in Apolda, after which he attended various courses at the Weimar Academy and returned to Vienna to study History and Sociology. However, he found himself dissatisfied and soon moved to Physics, where he met physicist Felix Ehrenhaft, whose experiments would influence his view of the nature of science. Feyerabend changed the subject of his studies to Philosophy and wrote his final thesis on observation sentences. In his autobiography of him, he described his philosophical view of him at that time as "firmly empiricist". In 1948 he visited the first congress of the international summer seminars of the European Forum in Alpbach. Here he first met Karl Popper, who had a great influence on his later works by him, first in a positive way, but then in a negative sense. In 1951 he obtained a scholarship from the British Council to study under the guidance of Wittgenstein, who died before his arrival in the United Kingdom. Feyerabend then chose Popper as supervisor, going to study at the London School of Economics in 1952. In his autobiography he explains that he was very influenced by Popper at the time: "As I said, Popper's ideas were very attractive and I was left with them. fascinated ». Feyerabend returned to Vienna and was involved in various projects. At the request of Popper himself, he translated The Open Society and its Enemies into German, but the master was not very satisfied with the translation work; he also translated a report on the development of the humanities in Austria. He also wrote several articles for an encyclopedia. In 1955 he received his first academic post at the University of Bristol

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