File spoon-archives/feyerabend.archive/feyerabend_1998/feyerabend.9804, message 13



Subject: PKF: RV: PKF interview  Mars81 (format)
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 03:19:17 +0200


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-----Original Message-----
De: Teresa Ordunya <teresaom-AT-greentek.com>
Para: feyerabend-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu <feyerabend-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu>
Fecha: viernes 17 de abril de 1998 7:35
Asunto: PKF: PKF interview Mars81

Trying to resend in MIME format. Sorry for the trouble. Thanks for your help, Alex


Glad to contribute to the list with this fifteen questions/answers interview with PKF. Questions are  a miscellanea between some queries raised in a tutorial seminar (1979/1980. Univ.of Valencia) and my own curiosity. Feyerabend, gently, put down the answers in Mars 1981.




Question1. A.M. shocked some philosopical audience. Do you think that the crude formulation of the epistemological anarchy, like you propose there, was a good "propaganda" to "sell" something else than a method of thinking, e.g. a vital action?.

PKF ANSWER 1. AM does not formulate any position, least of all an "epistemological anarchism". It confronts familiar positions such as positivism, critical rationalism, neo-Hegelianism with facts which conform to the standards of these positions and conjectures that the only thing a lover of principles can say when trying to take these facts into account is "anything goes". "Anything goes" is not a principle I hold for the world is much too complex to be capture by something as crude as a "principle"; it is the only principle left to a rationalist (positivist, neo-Hegelian etc.) who takes history (in his sense and not in mine) into account.

This situation was well known in the 19th century. For Ernst March there exists the practice of research; there exist various rules of thumb which work in one case, fail in others; there are the examples of great scientists - but there are no principles. Einstein agrees (cf. the quotation AM, 18). A "philosopical audience" ( I think you mea an audience of philosophy professors for there are no philosophers left in this world) will of course be shocked when confronted with this situation just as a trusting wife is shocked by her husband's unfaithfulness. Ignorance ( of what is really going on) is a cause in both cases. You suggest that I should have tried to remove this ignorance more slowly - you may be right.



Question2. Sir Karl Popper is, in the academia, considered one of your more close teachers, but in S.F.S. I remember that you said that this is not so. Would you extend your point of view?

PKF ANSWER 2. I guess that when speaking of academia you don't mean physicists, or historians of ideas, or historians of science but again professors of philosophy. Now according to many professors of Philosophy it was Sir Karl who introduced proliferation as an instrument of criticism. Actually the first philosopher (and still was a philosopher and not merely a professor) to introduce proliferation as an instrument of criticism was Mill (On Liberty). According to academia as defined by you (i.e. Professors of philosophy) it was Sir Karl who realised the importance of negative arguments which o not prove the excellence of a point of view but remove what is faulty. Actually it was again Mill who pointed out the importance of negative arguments. Towards the later 19th century many people, Mach and Boltzmann among them saw science not as a collection of perfect theories proved by some form of induction but as the result of a struggle for survival and Boltzmann, seeing that the struggle was still going on, regarded even logic as transitory and revisable by further criticism. In this he was far ahead of Popper who always shared the positivists' reverence for logic: scientific theories can change but not logical principles. According to academia Mach was a simpleminded positivist and Popper reintroduced realism. Actually sensations, for Mach, are hypothetical constructs. And so on. Academia, i.e. professional philosophers most of the time have no idea of who said what, who invented what and who was influenced by whom. So, draw your own conclusions.



Question3. Most of your work seems to be revolutionary, although some of your views -- about logic or physic, for instance -- are closed to the most classical standards. Would you consider this as a contradiction, an innovation or as a romantic fly?

PKF ANSWER 3. As I said in 1. above my work is not at all revolutionary - I just reformulate a view that was commonplace in the 19th century but was pushed aside by the primitivism of the Vienna Circle. I also try to revive the old enlightenment idea that people should think for themselves and decide things for themselves. At the time of the enlightement this idea was directed against the churches. Think for yourselves, people were told, don't listen to the sermons from the pulpit. But the slavery vis-a-vis the churches was replaced by a slavery vis-a-vis science and it is time to put an end to that. Considering how many slaves there exist today who are not only unaware of their slavery but are proud of it ("we are rational people! they say) such a suggestion is of course very "revolutionary". But it would not at all have seemed strange to Diderot. Besides, who cares if a view is revolutionary, or romantic or whatever other label can be applied to it. Is it useful in a certain historical situayion - that is the question. And I think it is quite useful today begin thinking about putting science and rationalism in their place.

(additional comment: I am speaking about sciences not about philosophy; as a matter of fact I think that most philosophers today are but servile handmaidens of science and so cannot be taken seriously; for the aim of philosophy is not to serve any particular institution or point of view, but to keep alive a sense of perspective).



Question4. Prof. Feyerabend, if there is not a language to make observations commensurable, then, does that mean that we are one step nearer to the solipsism or rather to the colective madness?

PKF ANSWER 4. No, because scientists have developed most efficient ways of choosing between incommensurable theories. If you want to learn a little more about these ways study for example the history of socalled older quantum theory. Besides - what is so bad about solipsism?



Question5. Which is, in your opinion, the task of the philosopher of science in a society in which scientific standards are like a myth?

PKF ANSWER 5. Not to add myths of his own to the myths of the scientists.



Question6. Often in your work, you have referred to the imagination like an alternative to dogmatism. Do you regard your philosophy close to that who was shining in the streets of Paris in 1968 and that, in some sense, marked one generation?

PKF ANSWER 6. I don't know what philosophy was shining in the streets of Paris in 1968. Most likely everybody had different ideas - but this difference does not appear in the writings and the writings are the only things I know.



Question7. In the last 60' and in the 70' we have assisted to an authority crisis in every level. Would you describe yours "anything goes" principle like the core of an antiauthoritarian action?. And how you define an antiauthoritarian action?

PKF ANSWER 7. As said in 1. "anything goes" is not a principle I hold. But I would say that antiauthoritarian action depends on the nature of the authority, the nature of the power at its disposal, on the wishes of whose living under the authority (there are many places where people love the authority that pushes them around) and on many other things. Talking about such matters in general is superficial and also impudent for it assumes that the puny ideas with which some intellectuals come up in their offices are the right food for people one has never met, does not know, and would not know how to speak to.



Question8. Would you say that your "free society" is a community of cultured, countercultured or neither of those individuals?

PKF ANSWER 8. A free society is a society where everybody, bums as well as professors, cultured as well as counter cultured people, murderers as well as protectors of human life can live as they see fit. Such a society is not imposed from the outside, by a bunch of reform-happy intellectuals, it is realised from within, always taking the particular historical situation into account. For example, I feel very unhappy about intellectuals trying to "educate" the rest of the population as if they, the intellectuals had already found the way to heaven (many Marxists act that way - they are anti humanitarians although they constantly speak of humanity, or the forces of history by which they mean the forces of their puny ideas). Politics is not made by devising general schemes and then trying to find means to impose this schemes, it is made by participating in the work of special groups. This is why I sometimes use the slogan: Citicens' initiatives instead of philosophy!







Question9. In your discussions with prof. Lakatos you maintain that rationality is not the only valid standard in scientific progress. Could you admit that science progress will be, in some special case, matter of magic?

PKF ANSWER 9. First of all there need not be anything like "scientific progress". Progress is a special feature which occurs in special historical circumstances and which should not be taken as a dogma. Why science progress? Why should people progress? Assume they are happy - why should they change? So, first get rid of the idea that progress is so important. It may be just a modern mania and one we should eliminate. Secondly, progress is not a one dimensional matter. A theory in science may be very coherent - that is an advantage - at the same time it may be very difficult to derive any observational consequences from it (the general theory of relativity had this property in the twenties). So there is progress in one respect, regress in another. The quantum theory led to many new recoveries and is empirically highly confirmed; but it has many quite artificial features. And so on. You ask whether scientific progress may be matter of magic - I do not quite understand your question. Do you mean that scientific progress may be caused by magic or that magic may be the result of scientific progress? The first is not merely a possibility, it occurred in the history of science and so did the second.



Question10. In the book "The teachings of D.Juan", the anthropologist Castaneda tell us how D. Juan ask him to get his "place" before coming into the way of Knowledge. Would you say that a "mature" person is an individual who has find his "place" in a free society?

PKF ANSWER 10. I feel very uncomfortable about such questions. Main reason: there so many notions of maturity and much depends on what you think about the nature of our world. Assume you belive, as I do rather frequently, that our world is an absurd world created by a malicious or stupid demon. Then there is no place for anybody in this world and a person who thinks he has found his place is not mature but simply shortsighted.



Question11. Most of today's young people feel very attracted by esoteric activities. In your work one can find reference to them; you even offer us a copy of your astral map. Would you incorporate the esoteric practices into the "basic Knowledge" of our times, and, if so, how?

PKF ANSWER 11. It is not up to me but up to the people in certain country, or region of that country to decide about what to do in their schools. My private opinion is that esoteric views should be taught side by side with the sciences as stories people tell each other about the world. There is the science-story, there is the biblical story, there is the Hopi story and we get a very narrow view of man if we don't learn at least some of these stories.



Question12. In your astral map appears Pluto in Cancer in the 10' house. In a Capricorn and attending to the aspectation with the ascendent in Libra, this could be interpreted like a characteristic of opportunism. Are you an opportunist prof. Feyerabend?

PKF ANSWER12. However taking Neptune into consideration you will see that dialectics is built into the whole scheme in the manner that my answer is: Yes and No.



Question13.In your last papers you show a strong confidence in the individual creativity. Does this mean that you belive that every individual is able "to invent" his own character, his own "experience"?



PKF ANSWER 13. No, alas, that, I think, is not possible. But still, it is nice to act as if it were.



Question14. In the last decade people have referred to you the role of "enfant terrible" inside the philosophy of science. Do you like this character or you dislike it?

PKF ANSWER 14. I don't give a damn.



Question15. Through your work it's noticeable that you are basically a theatre man. Which scenography would you propose for the play of the "Great Theatre of the World" of the 80'?



PKF ANSWER 15. The starry sky as seen from Andromeda (Messier 32, I belive).

Waiting for comments(if you feel like). Best Wishes.Teresa Ordu=F1a.












HTML VERSION:

 
-----Original Message-----
De: Teresa Ordunya <teresaom-AT-greentek.com>
Para: feyerabend-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu <feyerabend-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu>
Fecha: viernes 17 de abril de 1998 7:35
Asunto: PKF: PKF interview Mars81
 
Trying to resend in MIME format. Sorry for the trouble. Thanks for your help, Alex

 
Glad to contribute to the list with this fifteen questions/answers interview with PKF. Questions are  a miscellanea between some queries raised in a tutorial seminar (1979/1980. Univ.of Valencia) and my own curiosity. Feyerabend, gently, put down the answers in Mars 1981.

 

 

Question1. A.M. shocked some philosopical audience. Do you think that the crude formulation of the epistemological anarchy, like you propose there, was a good "propaganda" to "sell" something else than a method of thinking, e.g. a vital action?.

PKF ANSWER 1. AM does not formulate any position, least of all an "epistemological anarchism". It confronts familiar positions such as positivism, critical rationalism, neo-Hegelianism with facts which conform to the standards of these positions and conjectures that the only thing a lover of principles can say when trying to take these facts into account is "anything goes". "Anything goes" is not a principle I hold for the world is much too complex to be capture by something as crude as a "principle"; it is the only principle left to a rationalist (positivist, neo-Hegelian etc.) who takes history (in his sense and not in mine) into account.

This situation was well known in the 19th century. For Ernst March there exists the practice of research; there exist various rules of thumb which work in one case, fail in others; there are the examples of great scientists - but there are no principles. Einstein agrees (cf. the quotation AM, 18). A "philosopical audience" ( I think you mea an audience of philosophy professors for there are no philosophers left in this world) will of course be shocked when confronted with this situation just as a trusting wife is shocked by her husband's unfaithfulness. Ignorance ( of what is really going on) is a cause in both cases. You suggest that I should have tried to remove this ignorance more slowly - you may be right.

 

Question2. Sir Karl Popper is, in the academia, considered one of your more close teachers, but in S.F.S. I remember that you said that this is not so. Would you extend your point of view?

PKF ANSWER 2. I guess that when speaking of academia you don't mean physicists, or historians of ideas, or historians of science but again professors of philosophy. Now according to many professors of Philosophy it was Sir Karl who introduced proliferation as an instrument of criticism. Actually the first philosopher (and still was a philosopher and not merely a professor) to introduce proliferation as an instrument of criticism was Mill (On Liberty). According to academia as defined by you (i.e. Professors of philosophy) it was Sir Karl who realised the importance of negative arguments which o not prove the excellence of a point of view but remove what is faulty. Actually it was again Mill who pointed out the importance of negative arguments. Towards the later 19th century many people, Mach and Boltzmann among them saw science not as a collection of perfect theories proved by some form of induction but as the result of a struggle for survival and Boltzmann, seeing that the struggle was still going on, regarded even logic as transitory and revisable by further criticism. In this he was far ahead of Popper who always shared the positivists' reverence for logic: scientific theories can change but not logical principles. According to academia Mach was a simpleminded positivist and Popper reintroduced realism. Actually sensations, for Mach, are hypothetical constructs. And so on. Academia, i.e. professional philosophers most of the time have no idea of who said what, who invented what and who was influenced by whom. So, draw your own conclusions.

 

Question3. Most of your work seems to be revolutionary, although some of your views -- about logic or physic, for instance -- are closed to the most classical standards. Would you consider this as a contradiction, an innovation or as a romantic fly?

PKF ANSWER 3. As I said in 1. above my work is not at all revolutionary - I just reformulate a view that was commonplace in the 19th century but was pushed aside by the primitivism of the Vienna Circle. I also try to revive the old enlightenment idea that people should think for themselves and decide things for themselves. At the time of the enlightement this idea was directed against the churches. Think for yourselves, people were told, don't listen to the sermons from the pulpit. But the slavery vis-a-vis the churches was replaced by a slavery vis-a-vis science and it is time to put an end to that. Considering how many slaves there exist today who are not only unaware of their slavery but are proud of it ("we are rational people! they say) such a suggestion is of course very "revolutionary". But it would not at all have seemed strange to Diderot. Besides, who cares if a view is revolutionary, or romantic or whatever other label can be applied to it. Is it useful in a certain historical situayion - that is the question. And I think it is quite useful today begin thinking about putting science and rationalism in their place.

(additional comment: I am speaking about sciences not about philosophy; as a matter of fact I think that most philosophers today are but servile handmaidens of science and so cannot be taken seriously; for the aim of philosophy is not to serve any particular institution or point of view, but to keep alive a sense of perspective).

 

Question4. Prof. Feyerabend, if there is not a language to make observations commensurable, then, does that mean that we are one step nearer to the solipsism or rather to the colective madness?

PKF ANSWER 4. No, because scientists have developed most efficient ways of choosing between incommensurable theories. If you want to learn a little more about these ways study for example the history of socalled older quantum theory. Besides - what is so bad about solipsism?

 

Question5. Which is, in your opinion, the task of the philosopher of science in a society in which scientific standards are like a myth?

PKF ANSWER 5. Not to add myths of his own to the myths of the scientists.

 

Question6. Often in your work, you have referred to the imagination like an alternative to dogmatism. Do you regard your philosophy close to that who was shining in the streets of Paris in 1968 and that, in some sense, marked one generation?

PKF ANSWER 6. I don't know what philosophy was shining in the streets of Paris in 1968. Most likely everybody had different ideas - but this difference does not appear in the writings and the writings are the only things I know.

 

Question7. In the last 60' and in the 70' we have assisted to an authority crisis in every level. Would you describe yours "anything goes" principle like the core of an antiauthoritarian action?. And how you define an antiauthoritarian action?

PKF ANSWER 7. As said in 1. "anything goes" is not a principle I hold. But I would say that antiauthoritarian action depends on the nature of the authority, the nature of the power at its disposal, on the wishes of whose living under the authority (there are many places where people love the authority that pushes them around) and on many other things. Talking about such matters in general is superficial and also impudent for it assumes that the puny ideas with which some intellectuals come up in their offices are the right food for people one has never met, does not know, and would not know how to speak to.

 

Question8. Would you say that your "free society" is a community of cultured, countercultured or neither of those individuals?

PKF ANSWER 8. A free society is a society where everybody, bums as well as professors, cultured as well as counter cultured people, murderers as well as protectors of human life can live as they see fit. Such a society is not imposed from the outside, by a bunch of reform-happy intellectuals, it is realised from within, always taking the particular historical situation into account. For example, I feel very unhappy about intellectuals trying to "educate" the rest of the population as if they, the intellectuals had already found the way to heaven (many Marxists act that way - they are anti humanitarians although they constantly speak of humanity, or the forces of history by which they mean the forces of their puny ideas). Politics is not made by devising general schemes and then trying to find means to impose this schemes, it is made by participating in the work of special groups. This is why I sometimes use the slogan: Citicens' initiatives instead of philosophy!

 

 

 

Question9. In your discussions with prof. Lakatos you maintain that rationality is not the only valid standard in scientific progress. Could you admit that science progress will be, in some special case, matter of magic?

PKF ANSWER 9. First of all there need not be anything like "scientific progress". Progress is a special feature which occurs in special historical circumstances and which should not be taken as a dogma. Why science progress? Why should people progress? Assume they are happy - why should they change? So, first get rid of the idea that progress is so important. It may be just a modern mania and one we should eliminate. Secondly, progress is not a one dimensional matter. A theory in science may be very coherent - that is an advantage - at the same time it may be very difficult to derive any observational consequences from it (the general theory of relativity had this property in the twenties). So there is progress in one respect, regress in another. The quantum theory led to many new recoveries and is empirically highly confirmed; but it has many quite artificial features. And so on. You ask whether scientific progress may be matter of magic - I do not quite understand your question. Do you mean that scientific progress may be caused by magic or that magic may be the result of scientific progress? The first is not merely a possibility, it occurred in the history of science and so did the second.

 

Question10. In the book "The teachings of D.Juan", the anthropologist Castaneda tell us how D. Juan ask him to get his "place" before coming into the way of Knowledge. Would you say that a "mature" person is an individual who has find his "place" in a free society?

PKF ANSWER 10. I feel very uncomfortable about such questions. Main reason: there so many notions of maturity and much depends on what you think about the nature of our world. Assume you belive, as I do rather frequently, that our world is an absurd world created by a malicious or stupid demon. Then there is no place for anybody in this world and a person who thinks he has found his place is not mature but simply shortsighted.

 

Question11. Most of today's young people feel very attracted by esoteric activities. In your work one can find reference to them; you even offer us a copy of your astral map. Would you incorporate the esoteric practices into the "basic Knowledge" of our times, and, if so, how?

PKF ANSWER 11. It is not up to me but up to the people in certain country, or region of that country to decide about what to do in their schools. My private opinion is that esoteric views should be taught side by side with the sciences as stories people tell each other about the world. There is the science-story, there is the biblical story, there is the Hopi story and we get a very narrow view of man if we don't learn at least some of these stories.

 

Question12. In your astral map appears Pluto in Cancer in the 10' house. In a Capricorn and attending to the aspectation with the ascendent in Libra, this could be interpreted like a characteristic of opportunism. Are you an opportunist prof. Feyerabend?

PKF ANSWER12. However taking Neptune into consideration you will see that dialectics is built into the whole scheme in the manner that my answer is: Yes and No.

 

Question13.In your last papers you show a strong confidence in the individual creativity. Does this mean that you belive that every individual is able "to invent" his own character, his own "experience"?

 

PKF ANSWER 13. No, alas, that, I think, is not possible. But still, it is nice to act as if it were.

 

Question14. In the last decade people have referred to you the role of "enfant terrible" inside the philosophy of science. Do you like this character or you dislike it?

PKF ANSWER 14. I don't give a damn.

 

Question15. Through your work it's noticeable that you are basically a theatre man. Which scenography would you propose for the play of the "Great Theatre of the World" of the 80'?

 

PKF ANSWER 15. The starry sky as seen from Andromeda (Messier 32, I belive).

Waiting for comments(if you feel like). Best Wishes.Teresa Orduña.

 

 

 

 

 

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