Paul Feyerabend b. Paul Karl Feyerabend was born into a middle-class Viennese family in Times were hard in Vienna in the nineteen-twenties: in the aftermath of the First World War there were famines, hunger riots, and runaway inflation. Between the ages of three and six, Feyerabend recalls, he spent most of his time in the apartment's kitchen and bedroom.
Occasional visits to the cinema and numerous stories, especially stories with a magical aura, seem to have taken the place usually filled by childhood friends. He was a sickly child, but ran away from home once, when he was five years old p. The world seemed to be filled with strange and inexplicable happenings. It took him some while to get used to school, which initially made him sick.
2. Feyerabend's Early Life
But when he did so, his health problems had disappeared. When he learned to read, he found the new and magical world of books waiting for him, and indulged himself to the full p. But his sense of the world's inexplicability took some time to dissipate—he recalls feeling that way about events during the nineteen-thirties and throughout the second world war. But he also got thrown out of school on one occasion.
This accident then led to another, when he found himself forced to accept philosophy texts among the bundles of books he had bought for the plays and novels they contained. Although his reputation was as a philosopher, he preferred to be thought of as an entertainer. His interests, he said, were always somewhat unfocussed p.
However, Feyerabend's school physics teacher Oswald Thomas inspired in him an interest in physics and astronomy.
The first lecture he gave at school seems to have been on these subjects p. He describes his scientific interests as follows:. Feyerabend does not tell us how he became acquainted with another one of his main preoccupations—singing. He was proud of his voice, becoming a member of a choir, and took singing lessons for years, later claiming to have remained in California in order not to have to give up his singing teacher.
In his autobiography he talks of the pleasure, greater than any intellectual pleasure, derived from having and using a well-trained singing voice p. During his time in Vienna in the second world war, his interest led him to attend the opera first the Volksoper , and then the Staatsoper together with his mother.
A former opera singer, Johann Langer, gave him singing lessons and encouraged him to go to an academy. After passing the entrance examination, Feyerabend did so, becoming a pupil of Adolf Vogel.
At this point in his life, he later recalled:. Feyerabend tells how, without falling for Adolf Hitler's charisma, he appreciated Hitler's oratorial style. Austria was re-unified with Germany in Jewish schoolmates were treated differently, and Jewish neighbours and acquaintances started disappearing. But, as usual, Feyerabend had no clear view of the situation:.
For me the German occupation and the war that followed were an inconvenience, not a moral problem, and my reactions came from accidental moods and circumstances, not from a well-defined outlook. The general impression given by his autobiography is of an imaginative but fairly solitary person with no stable or well-defined personality. Rather, his decisions and courses of action seem to have been the result of a struggle between his tendency to conform and his contrariness.
Just as when he was a child, events happening around him seemed strange, distant, and out of context. It is very difficult to see him identifying with any group, and he must have made an unlikely soldier. As far as his army record goes, Feyerabend claims in his autobiography that his mind is a blank.
But in fact this is one of the periods he tells us most about. Having passed his final high school exams in March , he was drafted into the Arbeitsdienst the work service introduced by the Nazis , and sent for basic training in Pirmasens, Germany.
Feyerabend opted to stay in Germany to keep out of the way of the fighting, but subsequently asked to be sent to where the fighting was, having become bored with cleaning the barracks! He even considered joining the SS, for aesthetic reasons.
His unit was then posted at Quelerne en Bas, near Brest, in Brittany. Still, the events of the war did not register. Their training took place in Krems, near Vienna.
Feyerabend soon volunteered for officers' school, not because of an urge for leadership, but out of a wish to survive, his intention being to use officers' school as a way to avoid front-line fighting.
The trainees were sent to Yugoslavia. In Vukovar, during July , he learnt of his mother's suicide, but was absolutely unmoved, and obviously shocked his fellow officers by displaying no feeling. In December that same year, Feyerabend's unit was sent into battle on the northern part of the Russian front, but although they blew up buildings, they never encountered any Russian soldiers.
Paul karl feyerabend pdf reader
Despite the fact that Feyerabend reports of himself that he was foolhardy during battle, treating it as a theatrical event, he received the Iron Cross second class early in March , for leading his men into a village under enemy fire, and occupying it. He was advanced from private soldier to lance corporal, to sergeant, and then, at the end of , to lieutenant. At the end of November that year, he gave a series of lectures to the officers' school at Dessau Rosslau, near Leipzig.
Having returned home for Christmas , Feyerabend again boarded the train for the front, this time for Poland, in January There he was put in charge of a bicycle company. Although he claims to have relished the role of army officer no more than he later did that of university professor, he must have been at least a competent soldier, since in the field he came to take the place of a sequence of injured officers: first a lieutenant, then a captain, and then a major, before he was shot during another heroic act of carelessness performed in the retreat westwards from the Russian army.
The bullet lodged in his spine left him temporarily paralysed from the waist down, meaning that he spent time in a wheelchair, then on crutches, and thereafter walked with the aid of a stick. The war ended as he was recovering from his injury, in a hospital in Apolda, a little town near Weimar, while fervently hoping not to recover before the war was over. Germany's surrender came as a relief, but also as a disappointment relative to past hopes and aspirations.
However, the war took its toll even on Feyerabend.
The bullet in his spine left him impotent for the rest of his life. His descriptions of subsequent sexual encounters are one of the more amusing parts of his autobiography.
Although he started off completely ignorant of women, he married four times, and had, by his own account, plenty of affairs. But he seems to have been distant not just in his relationship with his parents, but in some of his marriages too.
He hated the slavery love seemed to imply, but hated equally the freedom achieved by taking evasive action.
He got bogged down in cycles of dependence, isolation, and renewed dependence, which only dissolved into a more balanced pattern after many years. At the end of the war, Feyerabend went to the mayor of Apolda and asked for a job. He was assigned to the education section, given an office and a secretary and, fittingly, put in charge of entertainment. In , having recovered from paralysis, he received a state fellowship to return to study singing and stage-management for a year at the Musikhochschule in Weimar.
He moved from Apolda to Weimar after about three months. At the Weimar Institut zur Methodologischen Erneuerung des Deutschen Theaters he studied theatre, and at the Weimar academy he took classes in Italian, harmony, piano, singing and enunciation. Singing remained one of his life's major interests. He attended performances drama, opera, ballet, concerts at Weimar's Nationaltheater , and later reminisced about opera stars of the time, recalling debates and arguments about theatre e. He also played a small part in one of the films of G.
Pabst, a notable German film-director. Although, by his own account, he led a full life, he became restless and decided to move.
But he became dissatisfied with history, and returned to theoretical physics. Together with a group of science students, who all regarded themselves as far superior to students of other subjects, Feyerabend invaded philosophy lectures and seminars. Although this was not his first contact with philosophy, it seems to have been the period which cemented his interest. He recalls that in all interventions he took the radical positivist line that science is the basis of knowledge; that it is empirical; and that nonempirical enterprises are either logic or nonsense p.
As we shall see, Feyerabend's youthful positivist scientism makes quite a contrast with his later conclusions.
John Wilkins - Feyerabend, Wittgenstein & Popper
In his book Logik der Forschung Popper had elaborated the straightforward and appealing falsificationist view that great science could be characterised as a process in which thinkers put forward bold conjectures and then do their best to improve them by trying to refute them. Instead of trying to develop an inductive logic, Popper argued for the deductivist view that scientific method could be characterised in terms of logically valid deductive inferences.
Popper's own autobiography, unfortunately, tells us nothing about their meeting or their relationship, despite the fact that he was to be the largest single influence first positive, then negative on Feyerabend's work. For those hoping that Feyerabend might use the occasion of his autobiography to settle accounts with his erstwhile philosophical conscience, it is disappointing that the book tells us so little about his acquaintance with Popper. Elsewhere Feyerabend tells us that he.
Popper's ideas, he remarks, were also similar to those of another Viennese philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein! Over the following years, Feyerabend attended the Alpbach symposium about fifteen times, first as a student, then as a lecturer and seminar chair. In fact, it is this decision which answers his self-addressed questions about the origin of his career, his reputation, and his situation at the time of writing his autobiography, since he traces his situation back to it.
At Alpbach he was also approached by communists, including the Marxist intellectual Walter Hollitscher, who became his teacher and friend. The considerations Hollitscher deployed were, first, that scientific research was conducted on the assumption of realism, and could not be otherwise conducted, and, second, that realism is fruitful and productive of scientific progress, whereas positivism was simply a commentary on scientific results, barren in itself.
Feyerabend eventually developed these thoughts in a fascinating series of papers beginning in , arguing that science needs realism in order to progress, and that positivism would stultify such progress.
The argument was entirely in line with Popper's approach, as well as with his conclusions. Viktor Kraft was a former member of the Vienna Circle, and became Feyerabend's dissertation supervisor.
The Kraft Circle was a philosophy club centred around Kraft, which constituted another part of the Austrian College Society. Maxwell eds.
About Wittgenstein's lecture, Feyerabend recalls the following:. Wittgenstein, who took a long time to make up his mind and then appeared over an hour late gave a spirited performance and seemed to prefer our disrespectful attitude to the fawning admiration he encountered elsewhere. SFS , p.
1. A Brief Chronology of Feyerabend's Life and Work
In , Feyerabend was introduced to Bertolt Brecht, and Hollitscher offered him the opportunity to become one of Brecht's production assistants, but he turned it down, later describing this as one of the biggest mistakes of his life SFS , p.
In the autobiography, however, he retracts this statement, saying that he would not have enjoyed being part of the closely knit group that surrounded Brecht. The reasons for his later defection from the Popperian camp seem to have been similar. Feyerabend admired Thirring and Ehrenhaft, and was influenced by Ehrenhaft, who had lectured on physics there from