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the Complete Review
the complete review - letters


Paul Feyerabend
Hans Albert

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To purchase Briefwechsel

Title: Briefwechsel
Author: Paul Feyerabend and Hans Albert
Genre: Letters
Written: 1966-71
Length: 241 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Briefwechsel - Deutschland
  • Edited by Wilhelm Baum
  • This correspondence has not been translated into English.

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting and informative, if somewhat specialized correspondence

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       In a 1973 letter to Imre Lakatos Paul Feyerabend writes:

I am, or rather, I was not aware that all my letters are filed away for HISTORY. Hans Albert does this -- as a matter of fact his cellar is full of letters from you, John, Habermas, Sir Karl, me and others and it was very amusing to read my letters of five, six years ago. I did not recognize myself at all.
       Some of the correspondence -- that from the years 1966 to 1971 -- between Albert and Feyerabend is published in this useful, if somewhat limited volume. A fascinating complement to the Feyerabend-Lakatos letters from a roughly similar period (1968-74) published in For and Against Method (see our review), it offers a somewhat different perspective on the tumultuous period at Berkeley, as well as the writing of Feyerabend's classic, Against Method.
       Albert, a more staunch Popper follower than Lakatos, and with a professional focus outside of the philosophy of science, makes for a different conversation partner for Feyerabend. Many of these letters are more substantial in their philosophical arguments than in the Lakatos-Feyerabend correspondence. Amusingly, however, many of the same episodes and events are again revisited and echoed, giving a fairly full picture of Feyerabend's life in those times.
       Among the more interesting points in the correspondence is the greater tolerance for Hegel Feyerabend expresses, as well as the more German focus (talk about the revolutionary times focussing more on Cohn-Bendit, for example, than in the Lakatos correspondence, where the LSE's own woes are naturally more at the fore). Feyerabend's discussion of the "Stinkbombe" (stink-bomb), as he fondly refers to Against Method here, is also valuable, as he is not so directly concerned with Lakatos' counterarguments when writing to Albert.
       There are the usual humorous titbits, including an excellent multi-Popper-caricature (with subscript-Poppers -- 0 through 5 -- as Lakatos would have them). Feyerabend also gives more insight into his intellectual forebears and heroes, always half-serious:
Hegel -- well, nimm das nicht so ernst, mein Held ist Brecht und Johnny Carson.

[Hegel -- well, don't take that so seriously, my hero is Brecht and Johnny Carson.]
       Feyerabend even manages some cuneiform curses (directed, naturally, against Popper). Useful, interesting documentation, this volume helps illuminate more of Feyerabend's life and thought. Regrettably the volume only covers a very limited period of time, and one that is (regarding Feyerabend) fairly well documented. Hopefully, more will eventually be forthcoming.

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Reviews: Paul Feyerabend: Hans Albert: Other books by and about Paul Feyerabend under Review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Authors:

       Paul K. Feyerabend:
       Paul K. Feyerabend was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1924. He received his Ph.D. in 1951, and went on to study at the London School of Economics. From 1958 to 1990 he was a lecturer and then professor at the University of California at Berkeley, while also teaching at numerous other academic institutions. The author of such works as Against Method and Science in a Free Society he was among the most influential philosophers of the second half of the 20th century. He died in 1994.

       Hans Albert:
       Hans Albert was born in 1921. A professor at the University of Mannheim, he was strongly influenced by Karl Popper.

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