KILLING TIME by Paul Feyerabend


The Autobiography of Paul Feyerabend
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 A fascinating memoir with an ending that will change many people's opinion about the Peck's bad boy of philosophy. Feyerabend (who died in 1994) was one of the gadflies of 20th- century philosophy of science. Viennese-born, he served during WW II in the German army and was wounded in the retreat from Poland- -wounds that left him crippled and impotent. Did that stop him from a life of romantic involvements and multiple marriages? No way. Nor did this essentially inquiring mind ever cease knocking authority and criticizing the foundations of Western culture. Yet the Nazi takeover of Vienna in 1938 washed over a schoolboy with no consciousness of anti-Semitism but many memories of family eccentricities, suicides, and encounters with ghostly relatives. In his postwar studies, Feyerabend (Science in a Free Society, 1978, etc.) quickly abandoned history in favor of science and philosophy: Soon he was imbibing and disgorging opinions about Ludwig Wittgenstein, Karl Popper, Niels Bohr, and others; his brash, no- holds-barred critiques brooked no elitism and assumed no superiority of rationalism or the scientific method. His ``big mouth,'' wide reading, and immersion in other cultural pursuits (spurred by a gifted singing voice and a theatrical sensibility) made him attractive to universities here and abroad; he spent his last years teaching at Berkeley and in Zurich, with time set aside for Rome and the company of his adored wife, Grazia. This last great love transformed the exuberant iconoclast into a touching figure who demands our regard and sympathy. In the end he reiterates his lifelong argument that the West cannot continue to blindly exalt reason; there must be a recognition of other paths to knowledge. Not a basic primer so much as an emperor's-new-clothes account of academic philosophy by a man who found meaning in his own life through a commitment to one who shared his concern for all humanity.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-226-24531-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995


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