Various disparaging authors

various times

Ian Jarvie, Managing Editor, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, January 8, 2021

”I do not have the kind of fond memories of Paul Feyerabend that you are looking for.  His legacy in philosophy is on the whole deplorable as it the behaviour of those who act as though he was not badly flawed.”

Potential candidates for „Worst enemies” of Pkf

(Compiled by Tibor Szanto. Most recent addition 24 March 2024. )

Gellner, E.A., “Beyond truth and falsehood” The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 26, no. 4 (1975): 331-342. 

If we adopted his principle ‘anything goes,’ would not the consequence be a collapse of that science and technology on which we have come to rely for affluence, and without which the world’s swollen population would both starve and tear each other apart in a far more savage conflict than we endure at present? Interestingly, Feyerabend does not deny the dependence of technology on that kind of square science in which it is not the case that ‘anything goes’. This is an enormously significant concession: most people, when asked to say why it is not true that ‘anything goes’, would invoke the supremely important pragmatic consideration that some thought styles lead to effective control over nature, and others do not. No epistemology which ignores this Big Divide can claim to have asked the right question. (p.339.)

Theocharis, Theo – Psimopoulos, Mihalis, “Where science has gone wrong” Nature 329 (15 October 1987): 595-598. 

. . . Feyerabend, the Salvador Dali of academic philosophy, and currently the worst enemy of science. (p.596.) 

Chomsky, N., Letter to Marcus G. Raskin, January 4, 1984. In M.G. Raskin and H.J. Bernstein (et alia), New Ways of Knowing. Rowman & Littlefield, 1987. pp. 130-137.

About Feyerabend, his book [AM] was amusing, in that it rather wittily constructed a semi-fictional, semi-accurate account of what Galileo was about. I suppose that it is hard to take seriously as real history of science, and his ‘everything [sic!] goes’ suggestions are, I presume, not really intended seriously. At least, they can’t really be taken seriously. (p.135.)  

Siegel, H., 1989, “Farewell to Feyerabend”, Inquiry, 32: 343–369.


It is with some trepidation that I offer this critical review of Feyerabend’s new book. I do not relish the prospect of getting involved in one of the nasty little fights Feyerabend picks with those who criticize his work. Nevertheless, Feyerabend’s work cries out for critical attention. Of particular interest is the degree to which this new work deepens or enhances Feyerabend’s earlier castigations of Reason. Fans of Feyerabend will be disappointed to learn that Feyerabend’s philosophy is not deepened or enhanced in any significant way, and that his responses to his critics are on the whole unconvincing.  

Laudan, L., 1989, “For Method: or, Against Feyerabend”, in J.R.Brown & J.Mittelstrass (eds.), An Intimate Relation, Dordrecht: Kluwer, pp. 299–317.


During the last quarter century, the theory of scientific methodology has come in for more than its share of drubbing from a variety of sources. Polanyi, Quine, Hesse, Kuhn, Wittgenstein, and a host of others have urged the abandonment of the methodological enterprise. Most of the arguments against methodology boil down to one of two sorts. They typically allege either (a) that the rules of scientific investigation radically underdetermine theory choice (and are thereby presumed to be impotent), or else (b) that the explicit rules of methodology are so vague and ambiguous that they forbid nothing1. I have tried to show elsewhere that the arguments lying behind these particular allegations will not support the conclusions drawn from them.2 But I have yet to come to terms in print with the writings of the most forceful and persistent critic of methodology in our time, Paul Feyerabend.  

Oberdan, T., “Positivism and the Pragmatic Theory of Observation”

PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990:25-37 


The purpose of this paper is to undermine Paul Feyerabend’s claim, which is crucial to the success of his analysis of Positivism, that the Pragmatic Theory of Observation was first developed by Rudolf Carnap in his early discussions of protocol sentences. Rather, it will be argued that Carnap’s conception of protocols was founded on considerations drawn from his conception of language so that Carnap’s reasons for endorsing certain aspects of the Pragmatic Theory are nothing like Feyerabend’s. Moreover, Carnap never approved the final conclusion of the Pragmatic Theory, that observational reports are distinguished by their causes. These historical conclusions provide the basis for arguing that, despite Feyerabend’s critique, Carnap’s later views (in “The Methodological Character of Theoretical Concepts”) clearly countenance theoretical influences on observational statements.   

Brentano, M. von., “Letter to an Anti-liberal Liberal.” In Munévar, G. (ed.) Beyond Reason. Essays on the Philosophy of Paul Feyerabend. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991. 199-212. 

[On witch-persecution] Beliefs and opinions of this type are not just what you call traditions, peaceful convictions of cultural groups, open to a mutual exchange of ideas with others; they rather display a nasty tendency to missionary zeal, quickly proceeding to bloody actions. Their victims are usually not fellow-believers, but the ‘others’, the objects violent beliefs need. And here I have some difficulty in reconciling two of your demands: the demand that all traditions, including those ‘appearing rather bestial to others’, should be tolerated and given equal rights, and the other demand that the objects of decisions should decide (‘Betroffenenentscheidung’). (p.200.) 

You blame our civilization’s claim to power on rationalism, reason, science, monotheism, etc. That is of course also true. But if we chose to call all that ‘imperialism’ instead of ‘dogmatism’, we would be thinking of other means of power: weapons and capital. ‘They speak of the Bible and think of cotton’. I have the impression that you, dear intellectual Paul Feyerabend, place too much trust in talk about the Bible (or reason, or science). Other traditions have been destroyed not by reason or the Bible, but by physical extermination and economical exploitation. The Bible and science have served as whores to that enterprise so we must indeed ask what made them so well suited for such services. But we should not forget what they were used for: political and economic power. (p.202.) 

Jacobs, S., 2003, “Misunderstanding John Stuart Mill on Science: Paul Feyerabend’s Bad Influence”, The Social Science Journal, 40: 201–212.

The vitiating weakness of Feyerabend’s interpretation of On Liberty is that he believes Mill’s arguments apply to science, and he uncritically assumes Mill believed it too. Precedent established, Staley and other admirers of Feyerabend commit the same misinterpretation of Mill’s On Liberty. On the basis of this misinterpretation they anachronistically misread Liberty as a defence of methodological and theoretical pluralism in science but, as shown in this paper, it is no such thing. (p.210.)  

Wilkins, J., 2007, “How not to Feyerabend”  

His naivety about political action, liberalism, and power relations seems to have failed. In a playful, joyous way, I would like to suggest that it is time to abandon his epistemic anarchism, in favour of a reasonable and democratic balance of power arrangement. Science must be given some respect, but it must be held accountable, and not just at the behest of special interests, corporate or religious, but by the entire community in which it operates. This does not mean, however, that the People are entitled to say what is, or what is not, science. 


Meyer, A., “On the Nature of Scientific Progress: Anarchistic Theory Says ‘Anything Goes’ – But I Don't Think So.” PLoS Biol 9(10): e1001165. October 4, 2011. 

So what, you ask, if anything, is the relevance of Feyerabend to biologists? To be perfectly blunt I do not see much of any.  . . .  Still, The Tyranny of Science really makes for an entertaining and thought-provoking read—even if it did not change my outlook on science and I would imagine that it will not affect yours either. His firework of admittedly interesting thoughts and observations will probably only make you realize how separate the two cultures of the sciences and humanities have become, even in a subject matter such as philosophy of science where at least one group of scholars purportedly cares about what the other does. Philosophical Dadaism a la Feyerabend will not help you get your next paper published. When your next grant is rejected and you read the panel's report, it might console you to have learned that the world is not a rational place, and even science might not always be. It is probably true that the rationality of science is only an imaginary idealistic supposition. But, if you are honest with yourself, you will say that you already knew that. 

Munchin, D., “Paul Feyerabend: The Worst Friend of Theology?” Theology and Science 17(2019) No. 4. 


After his death, Paul Feyerabend, the philosopher of science, was  labelled, not altogether seriously, as “the worst enemy of science.” He often  favourably compared theologians to scientists, and yet there is little real comfort for theology in his writings. His anarchic epistemology is destructive for any philosophical system which wishes to retain the claim that it is scientific, truth-telling, rational, and methodical. Can theology therefore withstand this anarchic challenge?