Anarchy and Knowledge

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Anarchy and Knowledge

Paul Fereraband argues in his (1975) essay on science that myth, selective storytelling, and rationalized scientific technique overlap. This requires one to consider the relation between myth (or narrative) and the scientific method, specifically in indicting the latter of dabbling in the former. This method is embedded in conscience because there is a “story” behind it, one of progress, of the continuing betterment of mankind using terms that science cannot define. “Progress” and “betterment” are not scientific terms, but moral ones that lie outside the scientific mode of discourse.

Science has appropriated them nevertheless. Science is based on myth, as are all modes of understanding. But the similarities of science and myth are worth discussing. There are taboo subjects in both. For a scientist to consider creationism as a serious challenge to evolutionism is to end his career. The idea is met with horror no differently than the African “common sense” style Feyeraband vaguely speaks of in his essay. They both believe they are deriving their truths from the sacred, in science’s case, the immutable laws of nature that are said to proceed from a void without cause.

But even more startling, Feyerabend is concerned with the modes by which science has won its vaunted victory over religion. In Europe, science overpowered, rather than convinced, its religious rivals. Technology more than anything else “proved” science as “better” than religion. In world politics, western forms of politics and economy were imposed on the southern world, or developing world, snuffing out older methods of collecting knowledge. Is there anything of value that was crushed? Or is the story of western colonialism–that of bringing enlightenment to the natives–completely true?

Feyerabend writes “there is separation between church and state, but no separation between state and science” It is merely thought to be true in itself. There is no choice involved, but this lack of choice does not derive from truth per se, but from the fact that science has the money and state power to impose itself where it will. He continues: State and science, however, work closely to-ether. Immense sums are spent on the improvement of scientific ideas. Bastard subjects such as the philosophy of science which have not a single discovery to their credit profit from the boom of the sciences.

Even human relations are dealt with in a scientific manner, as is shown by education programmes, proposals for prison reform, army training, and so on. Almost all scientific subjects are compulsory subjects in our schools. While the parents of a six-year-old child can decide to have him instructed in the rudiments of Protestantism, or in the rudiments of the Jewish faith, or to omit religious instruction altogether, they do not have a similar freedom in the case of the sciences. Physics, astronomy, history must be learned. They cannot be replaced by magic, astrology, or by a study of legends.

Science was never accepted by majority vote. It was imposed. It was imposed because there is a difference between science, or the collection of knowledge, and the scientific establishment, or even further, the specific method(s) of science. “Facts” and schools of thought are accepted because scientific specialists, making up the scientific establishment, agree with them. In a telling passage, our author writes: We see: facts alone are not strong enough for making us accept, or reject, scientific theories, the range they leave to thought is too wide; logic and methodology eliminate too much, they are too narrow.

In between these two extremes lies the ever-changing domain of human ideas and wishes But this, while likely the case, is not part of the narrative of scientific discourse as revealed to the public. One is taught that theory derives from facts, and that facts dictate theory, hence, theory is true, it corresponds with the “facts. ” But this is far from the method by which theories are sought, “proved” and, just as important, imposed on the public who is mostly willing to allow themselves to be informed from above.

It is the fact that science says x that makes x true for the vast bulk of the population. Scientific theory is not based on correspondence, but on coherence. In other words, there is an agenda to which science must conform. Modern democratic politics takes everything apart; modern radical ideologies attack ever element of society; critics and writers demand strict accounting for all moral and political ideologies and movements in society, but science alone escapes their glare. It is considered merely “true,” it is untouchable.

In some bizarre method of social alchemy, it partakes of the sacred, it has taken over from religion completely. Furthermore, the story that science tells the world that it and it alone are responsible for the great discoveries of the enlightenment, without in the lest giving credit to the religious and traditional forms of knowledge that have leaked into science, or the nature of alternative forms of discourse in developing theories and discoveries. Science is imperial at its root.

What is more, Feyeraband, as well as many others such as Eric Voegelin and Stephen MacKnight, have delved into the connection between modern scientific theories and the Lodges of Freemasonry, secret societies such as the Lunar Society of England, and the facts of progress deriving from the ancient gnostics and neo-Platonists. These have been written out of the mythological scheme of science with the aim of garnering all the credit–and hence prestige and grant money–to themselves. The narrative of science’s victory over other forms of knowledge and method is selective.

It retains what it wants, ignores the others. MacKnight has written substantially about the relation between modern science and the alchemists of Renaissance Italy such as Bruno and Ficino. These in turn, derive their ideas from Plotinus and the neo-Platonists after the time of Christ, all of which are immeasurably part of the development and eventual victory of western science over its rivals. But there is no disconnect between science and religion here, there is a rather harmonious cooperation, a cooperation not spoken of in any but the most specialized and obscure journals.

The doctrine of the Enlightenment in 18th century England and France is largely responsible for this problem. These writers, Helevitus and Condorcet in France, Bacon in England, envisioned a society run exclusively by reason, the world under the guise of cause and effect, i. e. “Science. ” Hence, they told a story of the gradual Enlightenment of man from the “stone age” to the Greeks, to the medievals to themselves. Each step of the development saw “myth” gradually stripped away, leaving the kernel of reason. This idea is central to the positivism of Comte and the historicism of Hegel.

The problem lies in history: there is no evidence that ancient societies were “backward” in relation to the modern. The building of the pyramids, the Roman road, the Gothic, and ancient Irish and Chinese medicine all belie the fact that the “old days” were backward and myth-ridden. There is much evidence to the contrary. What has happened is that the western idea of science, through military and political indoctrination, has convinced the world that myth is evil and for the ignorant, while science–and the development of the western idea in the Enlightenment–will fulfill the greatest desires of mankind.

Feyeraband writes: There was the domestication of animals, the invention of rotating agriculture, new types of plants were bred and kept pure by careful avoidance of cross fertilisation, we have chemical inventions, we have a most amazing art that can compare with the best achievements of the present. True, there were no collective excursions to the moon, but single individuals, disregarding great dangers to their soul and their sanity, rose from sphere to sphere to sphere until they finally faced God himself in all His splendour while others changed into animals and back into humans again.

At all times man approached his surroundings w’ h wide open senses and a fertile intelligence, at all times he made incredible discoveries, at all times we can learn from his ideas. The Enlightenment myth can no longer hold water. History cannot be conveniently and ideologically divided into periods of ancient-medieval-modern any longer, for the ancient had as many “modern” ideas as the present, and the modern is as dogmatic as the medieval. To silence former ages in the development of science is to hurt it, and to hurt us. Works Cited Primary Source Text: http://www. marxists. org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/feyerabe. htm


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 8 October 2016

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