Studies on Paul Feyerabend's philosophy: From Logical Empiricism to the historical turn in philosophy of science

Dissertation, (2016)

Daniel Kuby
Universität Konstanz
The present article-based dissertation is a contribution to a historical and systematic recon- struction of Paul Feyerabend’s philosophy. Building on previous work on the same subject, this thesis continues a research effort exploring Feyerabend’s early ties to scientific philoso- phy, in particular Logical Empiricism and the Vienna Circle, as well as its continued effects on Feyerabend’s later philosophy. The main claim is that Feyerabend’s formative years in Vienna (1946-1955) happened in the context of scientific philosophy and that his early philosophi- cal proposals should be interpreted as a critical contribution within this tradition. Secondly, it proposes a framework to connect Feyerabend’s early and later philosophy and explain the theoretical change involved. The first article gives the reader an overview of Feyerabend’s philosophy, introducing key themes of Feyerabend’s writings. The second article deals with the context and interpretation of Feyerabend’s earliest extant essay (1948) and identifies an early stage of Feyerabend’s philosophical formation, possibly preceding his acquaintance with Logical Empiricism, in which positivism as a concept of ”philosophy of physicists” is his primary interest. This helps to build a very fine-grained time sequence of his early philosophical interests and helps to disentangle the notion of scientific philosophy. The third article deals with an objection by Thomas Oberdan to the claim that Feyerabend’s pragmatic theory of observation is a development of earlier proposals by Rudolf Carnap, Otto Neurath and Karl Popper in the early 1930s. In particular, Oberdan denies that Carnap ever proposed such a theory about protocol sentences. The article argues that Oberdan’s objection fails by reconstructing how such a theory can be found in Carnap’s 1932 writings. Feyerabend’s pragmatic theory of observation is indeed one major point of contact between Logical Empiricism, Feyerabend’s early philosophy and his later ’post-positivist’ philosophy. This completes one main interpretative claim in previous work, namely, that Feyerabend’s pragmatic theory of observation should be seen as a contribution to the project of a ”behavioristics of scholars”. The fourth and last article is dedicated to Feyerabend’s role as a protagonist in the so-called historical turn in the philosophy of science in the 1960s. His early strong opposition and his later adherence to the turn is discussed and an explanation of the change involved is given. To this end I introduce a reconstruction of Feyerabend’s metaphilosophy, a framework called Decision-based Epistemology, and claim that specific changes on the metaphilosophical level can account for prominent changes on the level of Feyerabend’s philosophical contributions. An introduction at the beginning of the collection of articles gives a rationale of the outline, the overall research project and provides more informations on how these articles fit in the overall research project.
Keywords Observation  Logical Empiricism  Post-positivism  Metaphilosophy  Rudolf Carnap  Paul Feyerabend  Philosophy of quantum mechanics  Conventionalism  Historical turn
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