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Thank you for such an extensive summation of his book--I might have to pick it up, now. Made for good breakfast reading :)

Feyerabend seems like quite an intellectual titan in his own right, obviously, but one who has his guns pointed in the right direction. Actually, scratch that--aren't so many of our arguments doomed from the start because of the language we choose to present them with?
Feyerabend clearly isn't pointing "guns" at anyone, and in fact seems rather against all the kinds of people who are pointing guns (metaphorically but also rather physically, I guess). I think he's got it dead nuts on regarding that it isn't religion or science per se that is the problem once absolutist thinking becomes entrenched, but the fascist thinking that powers it.

I also appreciate his structured view of relativism, given that relativism can prove just as deleterious as other ideologies if not held in check, as well as his broader view of science.
Perhaps it's the place I've come to in my own life, but Feyerabend's points don't actually seem all that challenging to me, more of a very well considered elaboration on that nagging sense that comes whenever you feel like you've gotten a pretty good handle on things, or when you feel like you've "got it".

My mind's a bit too foggy right now to engage on any more advanced level, so I'll leave it at that. Thank you for taking so much time in presenting Feyerabend's obviously rather challenging and complex arguments. Certainly looks like its worth a read.

I think your interest in Feyerabend fits nicely with the stuff I read from you so far. I come from the opposite directon in a way: first Feyerabend then games. And may I say: I am not that surprised to find such a post here. The fact of the matter is that a sizable number of people (some of them visible enough to list on G...le or Te...rati) seem to be looking into the "area" and the "connetions" you are "circling". (I just try to avoid catch phrases and "-isms" for now since they tend to destroy a conversation.)

However, "connecting the dots" i.e. synchronising viewpoints and "vocabulary" (in the sense introduced by Wittgenstein) in order to achieve a specific political or social goal turns out to be extremely difficult. One reason is that these people live in radically different economical as well as cultural and language contexts.

I think a fruitful approach is to keep an eye on "extremist" scientific materialism as well as on the analysis of language but at the same time try to enrich your "vocabulary" beyond what people like Feyerabend may be able to offer. One proposal would be H.Arendt's "human condition" which in my view achieves a critique of "scientific materialism" (among other facets of modernity) very similar to the one cited above but from a radically different angle, conducting an investigation of human life from the polis of ancient Greece to Auschwitz.

In other words... there is no 'right way' and all humans are corrupted towards a bias by the very nature of being human.

See Chimpanzee Politics by Frans de Waal:

And there is also this video:

Enjoy. :)

For some reason, Feyerabend's conclusions make the most sense to me in the context of the relationship between parents and their children. The two primary goals of a parent is to protect and prepare, which can easily contradict, and the polarized roles of the parent are the 'tyrant' and the 'benefactor', which both have positive and negative implications for protecting a child and preparing a child. Children of a tyrant are often too rigid in their thinking and unable to self-direct, while children of a benefactor are often spoiled and incapable of self-discipline. Watching the debate over MySpace and the appropriateness of videogames for children kind of crystalizes the conflict between overprotecting and spoiling.

I love to hear science get put in it's place. They really are the new regime. :-)

Thanks for the comments and kind words, everyone! A few specifics...

Translucy: I've added Hannah Arendt's "Human Condition" to my ever-growing reading list... I don't know when I'll get to it, but it sounds right up my street! I am very curious as to your background; if you get a chance, I'd love to be able to put your comments into some kind of wider context.

Eric: "all humans are corrupted towards a bias by the very nature of being human" - great statement! :) Thanks for the primate links!

I'd write more, but I'm feeling a touch unwell today; I seem to have picked up a throat infection while caving in Wales.

My best wishes to you all!


thanx for your interest. Do you read german? Do you know somebody who does? If yes, I could point you to some literature that conveys the context much better than any improvised ramblings on a blog.

Best regards

Alas, my languages are English, French and Japanese; I'm not sure who I know that speaks German.


there may be another way to provide context on what Feyerabend, Wittgenstein, Arendt and all the rest have to do with the republique de lettres, creative anarchy and game design.

Unlikely places though...

I would ask you to read Choderlos' "Les liaisons dangereuses" and Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" applying your full set of analytical skills from philosophy and narrative game design.

I would be extremely curious to learn what you find out.

Watching "Valmont" and the BBC series will probably help as well. Don't ask me why Mr. Firth stars in both productions, I guess you have a lot more to say about the design of visual character-related traits.

One note though: "Serious scholars" mostly have viciously derided the investigation of supposedly "romantic novels" from previous centuries. It seems sometimes hard to tell whether such a proposal is ironic or not. This one is not.

You may come across a book by Lauren Henderson in which she tries to playfully investigate Jane Austens novels. I would agree that some of what she writes is either ironic or over the top. But her attempt to transfer Austen's narrative elements into real world game play is worth to be appreciated.

Well, the paradox of relativism is that a self-reflexive application does seem to lead to solipsism.

Gosh, i haven't been here in a while and see what I miss. I would love to contribute to this topic too but I haven't yet read the book (it has been on my reading list since I stumbled on the philosophy of science). I read Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions but that only made me want to read Feyerabend all the more.

However, other books on my reading list have introduced perspectives that muddy the waters; specifically Conner's A People's History of Science and Jeff Schmidt's 'Disciplined Minds'. Have you heard of or read either of those books? If so do they attack or support any assumptions (on history) that Feyerabend makes before setting up his arguments?

I think you should pick up Disciplined Minds in particular as that might give you some hope on getting a movement going...

Gyan: relativism need not lead to solipsism; one need not resort to absolutes to avoid falling into the philosophical oubliettes. Feyerabend deals with this issue in passing in this book - give it a try, if you're interested in the subject!

Suyi: thanks for stopping by! I haven't read either of the books you mention, but I have added them to my reading list (which is growing faster than I can read, alas, but such is the voluminous expansion of human knowledge!) I'm not sure I want to start movements, though - I just want to make games than entertain and amuse, help people when I can, and philosophise in my spare time. :)

Best wishes to everyone! Sorry for anyone whose comments have been lost in the shuffle. I have faith that anything of consequence will re-emerge of its own volition.

I had a look at the book today. Since I didn't have time to read the whole thing, I went by the index and looked up references to solipsism (none), sense experience (a few), relativism, epistemic (one) and really didn't find a treatment of this issue (relativism !-> solipsism).

Can you point to the specific essay? Or better, paraphrase his argument on this matter?

Gyan: *Sigh* Book indexes rarely seem to be up to scratch, do they... I doubt I'll find the note in the book, since it comes up only in passing, and searching would take a long time - Feyerabend's text is dense, and his footnotes are monumental!

However, I can provide my view on this issue in brief: Solipsism is a philosophical oubliette which can only be escaped by the individual *choosing* to believe in the existence of other people et al. Once this step is taken, it is possible to employ relativism because you have other people and therefore have cultures and histories (etc.) which have their own positions which individuals can position their own beliefs in relation to.

Or, to put it another way, while relativism allows for values to vary from culture to culture, or individual to individual, this variation in values and beliefs does not ipso facto lead to dismissal of the idea that other people exist, and therefore cannot (by itself) lead to solipsism.

And with regard to the other flavour of solipsism (external world scepticism) the same arguments apply: relative beliefs and values may permit an individual to *choose* solipsism, but the same is true in any frame of belief. The step into solipsism is always taken by the individual when they abandon either the postulate of an external world or the postulates of other people. This step can be taken from any initial position - even stepping off from objectivism!

Best wishes!

Chris: "Once this step is taken, it is possible to employ relativism because you have other people and therefore have cultures and histories (etc.) which have their own positions which individuals can position their own beliefs in relation to."

The problem is that your perception of these cultures and histories, is after all, completely and only --> your <-- perception of them, ergo solipsism. You may choose to believe that your perceptions share some commonality, but that's your only resort.

Gyan: we appear to be using the term 'solisism' slightly differently. What might be best would be if I discussed solipsism at a future point, and we can return to this then.

Thanks for sharing your views!

I read a great deal of Feyerabend about ten years ago - so what I have to say is clouded by memory fog. I became an enthusiastic relativist under Feyerabend's influence, but there is this problem - as a relativist you can end up having no beliefs and no tradition of your own. It turns into something purely negative. As Terry Eagleton said of postmodernism, it allows you to drive a coach and horses through everyone else's beliefs without having to hold any of your own. I don't think this is what Feyerabend wanted, but relativism tends to lead there. Feyerabend himself may felt this towards the end of his life. In his last book (Killing Time), he acknowledges that there is no 'culturally appropriate' cruelty - thus tacitly acknowledging a moral absolute. Feyerabend was motivated in large part by his sense of humanity, a thing I admire, yet I also admire Mary Robinson, who campaigns around the world against the death penalty - and is therefore a moral absolutist (she holds that execution is wrong irrespective of who does it, or for what reason.)

As a ps, I'd like to recommend a book to add to your (from the sound of it) unending reading list. It's called 'An Anthropological Critique of Development' edited by Mark Hobart - very strongly influenced by Feyerabend, all pieces by development workers dealing in the mismatch between local knowledge and the assumed universality of scientific objectivity, and the disasters that resulted. Applied Feyerabend, if you like. The essay on Potatoes and Knowledge is one that sticks out in the memory. Another pointed out the systematic deception at every level that was an absolutely necessary part of development work. It makes for uncomfortable reading. The conclusion seems to be that the most humane thing is to let others sort out their own problems. Encumbering others with help doesn't seem to do much good and probably does a lot of harm. Of course, this does not contradict fighting the IMF, World Bank and WTO, but this is a purely negative act - stopping them from intervening and taking away the independence of poor nations.

ps. great blog, very thought-provoking.

Thanks for your comment Theo! I've added the book you recommend to my reading list - it may take a while to get there, but it sounds like valuable reading.

Regarding the problems with relativism, these are issues I am actively involved in exploring myself. Having recently finished a 'blog campaign' on the subject of metaphysics, I am working towards a future campaign on the subject of 'Relativistic Ethics'. I plan to demonstrate that having a relativistic viewpoint need not be a barrier to holding a coherent ethical standpoint. However, I have much work to do before I'm ready for this undertaking!

Glad to know that you have enjoyed my blog, and hope to 'see you around' in the future.

There is a tension between Feyerabend's ideas and George Orwell's statements about tyranny. Orwell says in a number of places that democracy depends on our ability to check the assertions of the powerful against an exterior and independent reality. We must assume that objectivity is possible, according to Orwell. The dodgy dossier and claims about Iraqi WMDs spring to mind. As does the statement of a Republican spokesman, confronted with the lies and deceptions prior to the Iraq war, who replied (I paraphrase) 'There's no such thing as truth, so if we say it's so then it's so.' This is really a point about metaphysics, though it involves a question of responsibility.

As far as ethics go, there is an ethical argument against ethics (a rigid ethical code can do monstrous things - up to and including the holocaust). The theologian Don Cupitt argues for a deliberately unsystematic and fragmented ethics for this sort of reason - which needn't stop it drawing on Biblical tradition, among other things - but it isn't confined by it either.

Riding two horses at once? Perhaps I should adopt it as my moniker here.



At the interface between politics and philosophy in our current affairs is the issue of truth - and what we absolutely must not allow is a situation whereby the state holds sway over what may be considered true. This power must always lie in the hands of individuals. More on this in the future, I'm sure.

When I talk of relativistic ethics, I do not expect this can be rendered as a rigid code. Rather, I seek to look at how the game of ethics is played and perhaps provide an alternative approach.

But as I said before, any writing about ethics lies ahead of us. I look forward to reading your thoughts when we next head into philosophical waters. :)

Best wishes!

Just found our site (starting from _Dawkins Delusion_, reading around a bit, ended up here. I recommend (for your never-shrinking reading list, and for anyone else interested in these issues) Alasdair MacIntyre's _After Virtue_ and then _Whose Justice? Which Rationality_. MacIntyre himself introduces their relationship as follows:

"In [_After Virtue_], I concluded both that ‘we still, in spite of the efforts of three centuries of moral philosophy and one of sociology, lack any coherent rationally defensible statement of a liberal individualist point of view’ and that ‘the Aristotlean tradition can be restated in a way that restores rationality and intelligibility to our own moral and social attitudes and commitments.’ But I also recognised that these conclusions required support from an account of what rationality is, in the light of which rival and incompatible evaluations of the arguments of _After Virtue_ could be adequately accounted for. I promised a book in which I should attempt to say what makes it rational to act in one way rather than another and what makes it rational to advance and defend one conception of practical rationality rather than another. Here it is"

I find him absolutely compelling as at intellectual historian, and very stimulating as a moral philosopher.

Henry: thanks for the comment! I am always interested in the books that other people are finding address the interesting issues (and particularly the key philosophical problems of our time), and I've added MacIntyre to my seemingly infinite reading list. Since I'm focussing on moral philosophy at the moment, this might jump up the list quite rapidly - but I have Appiah and Rawl to get through first...

Hope you're enjoying the eclectic nonsense of this site! :)

The writer of this blog quotes Feyerabend as writing
"The problem is the growing disregard for spiritual values and their replacement by a crude but ‘scientific’ materialism, occasionally even called humanism: man (i.e. humans as trained by their experts) can solve all problems – they do not need any trust in and any assistance from other agencies".
Maybe this is crude question, but what agencies did Feyerabend have in mind when he said "other agencies"?. A religious person could say "God", but did Feyerabned believe in god? If not, how would he answer my question? Any suggestions?

Curtis: thanks for your comment! (I think, in general, you could have addressed your comment to me directly i.e. "you quote" rather saying "the writer of this blog quotes", but not to worry! :> )

Feyerabend was not a theist himself, and didn't obviously have any overt spiritual beliefs he shared in his writing, but unlike many modern philosophers he realised that there was more to how we live in the world than determining one solitary version of truth. It was his feeling that there were many cultural traditions - including but not limited to religions - that had a justifiable claim to validity as a guide to life (or some aspect of life). He did not believe in pre-empting any life decision on some static basis.

So when he refers to "other agencies" in the sentence you quote, I believe this is expressed from the point of view of the scientific materialist/humanist he criticises: it is in such a person's voice that "other agencies" (which would indeed include God) are dismissed. Feyerabend, conversely, would leave it to the people concerned to determine which "other agencies" they might be influenced by.

Hope this answers your question!

With ALL this talk about the infinite reading list, perhaps you could dedicate a space on your site to an extended bibliography, those read and those awaiting reading.

Reading Popper was a turning point in my philisophical development, although it was more a matter of being thrilled to find the chaotic elements of my own world view properly organized, rather than arriving at a new perspective. I would also recommend Conjectures and Refutations to those having less in the way of a philosophy background (I myself am an engineer), rather than LSD (dont you love that abbreviation for a philosophy book), which is more methodologically rigorous. C&R provides a lot of context wrt other philosophers and schools of thought, which is most valuable for a person like myself, self taught (self directed) in philosophy.

I have been bogged down for several years in Penrose's Road to Reality, but have taken time out periodically to digest other material. One item that stands out is Arthur Herman's 'How the Scots Invented the Modern World', which is a quick easy read on the origins of the Scottish enlightenment and it's impact on contemporary western (particularly American) culture.

Thanks for this very iteresting blog!

Paul: thanks for the kind words, and the suggested reading!

I did consider having my reading list displayed on the sidebar here, but in point of fact managing the sidebar can be quite a bit of work and my reading list changes quite literally on a daily basis... There are multiple levels to manage: my written "wants" list, books I have put in my basket on Amazon but have "Saved for Later", books in my basket waiting to be ordered and, finally, the pile of books I am waiting to read. It's enough work managing the books themselves - let alone keeping a separate record here! :)

I *still* haven't actually read any Popper directly (although I have read much about his philosophy from various sources), simply because I am hoping to find some Popper in a second hand bookstore at some point. Since one of the games I enjoy most is fishing for books I want among the shelves of bookstores, I don't want to rob myself of the pleasure of finding one I really want - but in the case of Popper, I have waited a long time and still found nothing!

Best wishes!

In some ways, I like Feyerabend´s kind of "relativism":

"my main objections against intellectual solutions of social problems is that they start from a narrow cultural background, ascribe universal validity to it and use power to impose it on others. Is it surprising that I want to have nothing to do with such ratiofascistic dreams? Helping people does not mean kicking them around until they end up in someone else’s paradise, helping people means trying to introduce change as a friend, as a person, that is, who can identify with their wisdom as well as with their follies and who is sufficiently mature to let the latter prevail"

And believe it or not, the attitude of accepting local traditions and living and working with people as friends, not imposing solutions but working together, is now a very Catholic one. Most Catholic charities are based on this principle nowadays.
And the official "Social Agenda of the Catholic Church" from 1991 takes this position based on the Scriptures and on Papal Encyclica written in the last 100 years.

On the other hand I can´t accept the total rejection of any objective truth.
It´s true that in an argument of two disagreeing parties both could theoretically be equally right and the problem between them was only one of different forms of communication. But if you look at the problem apart from communication, only as a problem of physical reality, then there must be a yes or no, even though at the moment the yes or no cannot yet be fully determined for lack of knowledge of all the relevant facts.

Let´s take "Global Warming/Climate Change" either it is catastrophic for our environment or it is not, either it is mainly caused by human economic (or agricultural) activity or it is not.

Either of these two positions, if taken up politically have enormous economic consequences. If political measures are based on false premises needless suffering of possibly billions of people in the world will follow.

Relativism might lead to the position that since there is no objective truth and perception is everything, there also is no objective untruth. It is therefor permissible to artificially create any kind of perception in the mind of others, if it serves your purpose.
However, every society is built on trust. Trust is based on the belief that truth actually exists and can most often be determined and that those you trust in will tell you the truth as best as they can.
If all trust is lost, society will self-destruct.

Notsylvia: I agree that the attitude of accepting local traditions and working with the people their as friends is a very Catholic value (arguably, a very Christian or Jesus-inspired value in more general terms) - but it must also be said that the Vatican itself (as opposed to Catholic culture as a whole) has not done as great a job of upholding this value as it could. I think perhaps one of the misunderstandings in respect to Catholicism is the idea that Vatican = Catholic, and this can be a misleading perspective, since the Catholic church is far more than just its law-makers.

As for the question of objective truth, one can accept objective truth but still remain sceptical of one's ability to attain to it. It is true that it would be catastrophic if "the environment was lost" - but that does not give us the capacity to accurately anticipate which actions will lead to that consequence. The danger of accepting objective truth comes when one believes one has privileged access to that truth; it was against this Tyranny of Truth that Feyerabend argued.

I take a slightly harder position on truth than Feyerabend (but a slightly softer position on truth that most people!), but I found his arguments in this book to be extremely compelling and useful. I think, perhaps, he has been wildly misunderstood by many of his critics.

Best wishes!

Thank you for this wonderful, thoughtful post on a fascinating man I just discovered over at an Electric Universe forum, ( and so far I have only read his Wikipedia page (which is very good). I have often felt alone in my criticism of the new tyranny of science in our enlightened world, and as you have found, the most closed minded people I meet are scientists!

So much to say on this massive issue...but can you recommend any good games for a 10 yr old (my son) that don't overemphasize cruelty, murder and control? I limit his screen time- is he just way too young for serious gaming? What are your favorite games (having read just this one post on your blog) I'm off now to read more.

Dig the Electric Universe guys at REALLY fascinating cutting-edge science that embraces mythology to some extent. Totally exposes entrenched "religious" beliefs of establishment cosmologists and geologists and astronomers.
Good movie here:
It's an Electric Universe (much more than a gravitational one)

D: this is one of those comments that I have difficulty establishing if it is a very clever spambot or a person who just likes posting links! :) Could you please respond to my comment to confirm you are not a robot? Thanks!

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