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Notes by RBJ on

Farewell to Reason

by Paul Feyerabend

The book consists of a collection of twelve essays as follows:

Notes on Relativism
Reason, Xenophanes and the Homeric Gods
Knowledge and the Role of Theories
Creativity
Progress in Philosophy, teh Sciences and the Arts
Trivialising Knowledge: Comments on Popper's Excursions into Philosophy
Mach's Theory of Research and its Relation to Einstein
Some Observations on Aristotle's Theory of Mathematics and the Continuum.
Galileo and the Tyranny of Truth
Putnam on Incommensurability
Cultural Pluralism or Brave New Monotony?
Farewell to Reason

Notes on Relativism

This extended essay discusses various kinds of relativism via a set of specific propositions, and is substructured into sections as follows:

Practical Relativism (Opportunism)
R1
Individuals, groups, entire civilisations may profit from studying alien cultures, institutions, ideas, no matter how strong the traditions which support these views.
Political Consequences
R2
Societies dedicated to freedom and democracy should be structured in a way that gives all traditions equal opportunities, i.e. equal access to federal funds, educational institutions, basic decisions. Science is to be treated as one tradition among many, not as a standard for judging what is and what is not, what can and what can not be accepted.
R3
Democratic societies should give all traditions equal rights and not only equal opportunities.
Herodotus and Protagoras
R4
Laws, religious beliefs and customs rule, like kings, in restricted domains. Their rule rests on twofold authority - on their power and on the fact that it is rightful power: the rules are valid in their domains.
R5
Man is the measure of all things; of those that are that they are; and of those that are not, that they are not.
Truth and Reality in Protagoras
R6
Citizens, and not special groups have the last word in deciding what is true or false, useful or useless for their society.
R7
The world, as described by our scientists and anthropoligists, consists of (social and physical) regions with specific laws and conceptions of reality.
<snip>
The attempt to enforce a universal truth (a universal way of finding truth) has lead to disasters in the social domain and to empty formalisms combined with never-to-be-fulfilled promises in the natural sciences.
Democratic Relativism
Truth and Reality: Historical Treatment
R8
the idea of an objective truth or an objective reality that is independent of human wishes but can be discoverd by human effort is part of a special tradition which, judged by its own members, contains successes as well as failures, was always accompanied by, and often mixed with, more practical (empirical, 'subjective') traditions, and must be combined with such traditions to give practical results.
R9
The idea of a situation independent objective truth has limited validity. Like the laws, beliefs, customs of R4 it rules in some domains (traditions), but not in others.
Epistemic Relativism
R10
For every statement (theory, point of view) that is believed to be true with good reasons there may exist arguments showing that either its opposite, or a weaker alternative is true.
R11
For every statement, theory, point of view believed (to be true) with good reasons there exist arguments showing a conflicting alternative to be at least as good, or even better.
Some Critical Remarks Examined
Return to Life


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