Sussex University: the start of the Autumn Term, 1974. There was not a seat to be had in the biggest Arts lecture theatre on campus. Taut with anticipation, we waited expectantly and impatiently for the advertized [sic] event to begin. He was not on time—as usual. In fact rumour had it that he would not be appearing at all that illness (or was it just ennui? or perhaps a mistress?) had confined him to bed. But just as we began sadly to reconcile ourselves to the idea that there would be no performance that day at all, Paul Feyerabend burst through the door at the front of the packed hall. Rather pale, and supporting himself on a short metal crutch, he walked with a limp across to the blackboard. Removing his sweater he picked up the chalk and wrote down three questions one beneath the other: What’s so great about knowledge? What’s so great about science? What’s so great about truth? We were not going to be disappointed after all!¹
Against Method (1975) by Paul Feyerabend, published by New Left Books (better known these days as Verso), established its author as the “anti-science philosopher” and the “worst enemy of science.” Some people just don’t get irony, apparently. Feyerabend “felt it necessary to respond to most of the book’s major reviews in print, and later assembled these replies into a section of his next book, Science in a Free Society, entitled ‘Conversations with Illiterates’.”²
By the way, I just picked up a VG, crisp 1975 first edition copy of Against Method for £3 (fourth printing, with light wear to original DJ). Usually this particular edition sells anywhere between £40 and £200, depending on the book’s condition and the bookseller’s nerve. Hence the post’s title.
For those of you interested in the workings of Feyerabend’s mind with regard to this particular book (or just simply enjoy looking at typewritten pages scribbled with notes and such), this document will be a real gem.
I’ll hear you out now.
* OED, s.v. bargain n.¹ 3.a. and 3.c.
¹ Krige, John. Science, Revolution and Discontinuity. Harvester Press, 1980, p. 106.
² Preston, John. “Paul Feyerabend.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Winter 2016 edition, edited by Edward N. Zalta, sec. 5.2.