Feyerabend and the libertarians

I’ve still been reading through Feyerabend’s Against Method, and following along what Rick and Bill have to say about his arguments, but it’s slow going. Sometimes slow is better than fast, especially these days.

Awhile ago Irfan Khawaja, a philosopher who has been purged from at least one libertarian inner circle and blacklisted from several others, sent me a bunch of journals: Critical Review, Raritan, and New Left Review. (I still owe him for the postage. Holla at me Dr K!) These have been veritable gold mines of insider knowledge, and I came across a 1990 article by James McCawley in Critical Review that aptly sums up my own raw thoughts on Feyerabend. Namely, the question of Feyerabend’s own brand of politics. Was Feyerabend unwilling to accept political anarchism even though he was a methodological anarchist?

I still don’t have a solid answer to this question, though the evidence so far points to an affirmative. If he wasn’t a political anarchist, what was he? Certainly not a Stalinist, but my guess is that his politics wouldn’t have been as original as his philosophy. I suspect he was, at heart, a democratic socialist along with most of his peers.

One of the more insider-y aspects of the McCawley piece was Ayn Rand’s dislike of Feyerabend’s methodological anarchism. McCawley points out that Rand read and responded to an early piece of Feyerabend’s, and that if Rand had been a little more tolerant, she and Feyerabend could have some stimulating (though no less heated) exchanges over the years. Alas.

4 thoughts on “Feyerabend and the libertarians

  1. When I think of Feyerabend I’m reminded of the line from one of Bob Dylan’s songs (Absolutely Sweet Marie): “to live outside the law you must be honest.” I think that Feyerabend was honest in that he never abandoned respect for the evidence and the need to be honest about one’s observations and evidence. I’ve always thought of his work as a reaction against Kuhn, or interpretations of Kuhn that put limits on where inquiry could go. It’s also a reaction against normative methodology. Unfortunately his anti-authoritarianism sometimes got misdirected and I think it was an over reaction. But it was really the opposite of Ayn Rand’s approach, and that of a significant number of Austrians/Libertarians who generally place a high value on claims to a priori knowledge based on essentialist axioms.

    • But it was really the opposite of Ayn Rand’s approach, and that of a significant number of Austrians/Libertarians who generally place a high value on claims to a priori knowledge based on essentialist axioms.

      Yes, and I suspect that’s why Bill and Rick honed in on Feyerabend in the first place. I’ll have to wait and see to know for sure.

  2. Lol. You don’t owe me for postage, dude. I owe you some comments on that paper you sent me a few weeks ago. Will get to it soon, in between posts on COVID-19.

    I’ve read Rand on Feyerabend, but have never read Feyerabend (or very much of him), so have nothing intelligent to say about it. Philosophically, I’m an Objectivist-influenced pragmatist, so it occurs to me that I might get some mileage out of reading him.

Please keep it civil

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s