Why does Fayerabend see observation terms, scientific method and fixed standards as fetishes of rationalism?

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    Could you expand this question a little? Which papers/books by or about Feyerabend do you have in mind? Are you interested in Feyerabend's views in particular? Are you puzzled why 'rationalism' is the target, instead of, say, empiricism?
    – DBK
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 15:59

1 Answer 1


Feyerabend makes a detailed demolition of the so called "received view" of philosophy of science (i.e.Logical Empiricism and Popper) and its attempts to discover rules of scientific method.

In his book Against Method (1975) he uses historical case studies (i.e. the transition from older scientific theories, like Aristotle's theory of motion, to the scientific revolution of Galileo) to argue that there are no universal and exceptionless methodological rules governing the progress of science or the growth of knowledge.

According to F, the history of science is so complex that if we aim at a general methodology that is applicable in every historical context and to all objects of study, the only “rule” that is applicable will be the trivial one: “anything goes”. The phenomenon of incommensurability between different "points of view" renders the standards which the “rationalists” (like Popper) use for comparing competing theories inapplicable.

The critics of F's book accused him of beeing an “irrationalist”.

See: Paul Feyerabend, in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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    Fascinating, what Feyerabend says makes complete sense to me. I would identify the idea that there are timeless ways to do science with the adage, "If all you have is a hammer..." I'd love to understand why folks think there is a describable, forever-valid 'scientific method'. Why does this matter to them?
    – labreuer
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 19:24
  • @labreuer From my readings it seems that the demarcation problem is a motivation for a specific method. However, I do think there is a general process that science uses, namely evidential reasoning and empirical testing, but I don't think these are solely the purview of science...I've used similar reasoning in a literature class when trying to justfiy a theory about a character's motivations (for example). Part of science is its subject matter, as much as its method. For example, history is not a "science" in the traditional sense, but it uses very similar methods.
    – user4634
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 14:47

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