[ Preface | Part One | Part Two | Notes | Bibliography | Cover ]
This book is about a recent tendency in the philosophy of science: that tendency of which the leading representatives are Professor Sir Karl Popper, the late Professor Imre Lakatos, and Professors T.S.Kuhn and P.K.Feyerabend.
These authors' philosophy of science is in substance irrationalist. They doubt, or deny outright, that there can be any reason to believe any scientific theory; and a fortiori they doubt or deny, for example, that there has been any accumulation of knowledge in recent centuries.
Yet, with a partial exception in the case of Feyerabend, these writers are not at all widely recognized by their readers as being irrationalists. Indeed, this is so far from being generally recognized, that Popper, for example, is actually believed by most of his readers to be an opponent of irrationalism about science.
It is from these two facts that the question arises to which Part One of this book is addressed: namely, how have these writers succeeded in making irrationalism about science acceptable to readers, most of whom would reject it out of hand if it were presented to them without disguise?
My answer to this question is: by means of two literary devices which are characteristic of their writings. These two devices are respectively the subjects of Chapters I and II, which together make up Part One.
Part Two of the book is addressed to the question: what intellectual influence led these writers themselves to embrace irrationalism about science?
It should therefore be evident that both of the questions to which this book is addressed, although they are about a certain kind of philosophy, are not philosophical questions, but purely historical ones.
This fact seemed to me to need to be emphasised in a preface, because I have heard a sensible person object to Chapter I by saying that it is "merely verbal criticism" of the philosophers in question. This objection might have been well-founded, and at least would have been a relevant one, if criticism of these authors' philosophy had been my principal object, or even an essential part of my principal object, in Chapter I. But that is not so. In all of Part One, as in Part Two, my principal object is simply to answer a certain historical question.
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