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ON THE WAY TO IMMANENCE by Terence Blake

REVIEW OF FEYERABEND'S "LAST INTERVIEW"

1) FREEDOM AND THE DE-CONVERSION FROM RATIONALISM


I want to talk about a short dialogue between Joachim Jung and Paul Feyerabend that was published in the memorial volume THE WORST ENEMY OF SCIENCE?: Essays in Memory of Paul Feyerabend. The dialogue took place in Feyerabends last days, when he was hospitalised with an inoperable brain tumor, with the left side of his body entirely paralysed. He had only two weeks to live. The text is quite short, only ten pages long (p159-168). Aside from the two interlocutors (Feyerabend and Jung) Feyerabends wife (Grazia Borrini Feyerabend) was present, but does not intervene in the interview, except once. Though she she does not take part in the discussion her presence is of prime importance for situating the dialogue in the context of light and of love that Feyerabend saw as characterising the final phase of his life, with Grazia: Grazia is with me in the hospital, which is a great joy, and she fills the room with light (KILLING TIME, p181). We know in fact from KILLING TIME that Feyerabend died peacefully in his hospital bed holding hands with Grazia on February 11, 1994 (at just over 70 years of age), after more than a week of morphine-induced coma. So this dialogue, which took place on January 27, 1994, was very close to the end. Thus it truly was, as Deleuze and Guattari formulate such an event in the life of a philosopher, a moment of grace between life and death (WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?, p1) where Feyerabend expresses himself with sobriety and a sovereign freedom on the question What is it that I have been doing all my life?. Deleuze and Guattari claim that such sobriety and freedom are attained, if at all, only towards the end of life with the arrival of old age and the time for speaking concretely (p1). [Note: this "speaking concretely" is also described by them as the attainment of a "nonstyle". I think that this explains my initial reaction to this Last Interview and to Feyerabend's autobiography KILLING TIME. I found them disappointing, almost boring. It took me much time and many detours to see the abundance (conceptual and affective, intellectual and existential) that they contain.] Feyerabend often claimed that he was not a philosopher, and that he had no philosophy (cf. p162: I do not have a philosophy, I have lots of opinions). So it is interesting to see that one of his last conscious public acts bed-ridden, paralysed and dying of a brain tumor was to give an interview on his views on philosophy. The least we can say is that he gives a lot of importance to the question of philosophy and to his stance of dis-identification with this category, as with all categories. In the course of the interview he talks about death and disfigurement as facts of life, of people in hospitals being kept barely alive and of the decision to pull the plug or not: This is something you have to think about (p166). It is clear that Feyerabend has thought about it, and that in engaging in this dialogue he is doing exactly what he wants. The interview is an expression of his sovereign freedom. Freedom is one of the main themes of the dialogue. Feyerabend emphasises that he was very fortunate to have been free not just to think whatever he liked but to publish and teach his ideas with the same freedom: Ideas are free everywhere. Publication is the problem.I taught in Berkeleyand I could say whatever I wantedI was completely freeAlso, in Switzerland, when I came here to the ETHI could practically do what I wanted (p160). This freedom is not just a primary personal value for Feyerabend but is essential for research in any domain. He quotes Niels Bohr as saying: When you do research you cannot be tied down by any rule, not even the rule of noncontradiction. One must

have complete freedom (p162). This primacy of freedom over logic and arguments came to him in a dialogue with von Weizscker. It embodies one of the most important philosophical conversions in Feyerabends life. Feyerabend tells us the story of this conversion in several places. It occurred in 1965 in Hamburg in von Weizsckers seminar. Feyerabend was at the height of his pluralist phase. He defended at this time his own philosophical synthesis, which tried to specify a general methodology not just for the sciences but also for the arts. So Feyerabend had a philosophy in 1965: philosophical pluralism. He was a rationalist and a pluralist, committed to finding general rules that would cover all cases and non-scientific developments as well. (SCIENCE IN A FREE SOCIETY, p117). According to Feyerabend: My arguments were excellent. But von Weizscker gave a historical account of the rise of quantum theory and this was much richer and more rewarding and I realised that what I was talking about was just a dream (p162). This realisation concerned not so much the arguments themselves, as Feyerabend conserved them but put them to a different use. He no longer tried to impose general rules, but he did not advocate the pure and simple abandon of rules. He used his arguments to expand the repertoire of accepted rules, and to argue for the reseachers complete freedom with respect to all rules: Today the same arguments are offered with a very different purpose in mind, and they lead to a very different resultAll attempts to revive traditions that were pushed aside and eliminated in the course of the expansion of Western culturerun into an impenetrable stone wall of rationalistic phrases and prejudices. I try to show that there are no arguments to support this wall and that some principles implicit in science definitely favour its removal (SCIENCE IN A FREE SOCIETY, p144-145). Thus when Feyerabend concludes in the interview that excellent arguments dont count when you want to deal with something which is as rich as nature, or other human beings (p162), he is slightly overstating his case. Excellent arguments dont count when you want to impose general rules on research or on life. The important thing is the purpose of the arguments (freedom or servitude) and the attitude. Feyerabend declares that he had a rationalist attitude up to his dialogue with von Weizscker, when I suddenly realized how barren such an attitude is in the face of concrete research (SFS, p144). This abandon of the rationalist attitude had effects on Feyerabends thinking and research, but also on his teaching and his life. He began to give more importance to feeling and to the concrete details of life. Indeed, the rationalist de-conversion was just as much an affective experience as an intellectual one: For the first time I felt, I did not merely think about, the poverty of abstract philosophical reasoning (KILLING TIME, p141).

2) CONVERSION TO IMMANENT RATIONALISM


Feyerabends dialogue with Joachim Jung is given a particular importance and solemnity by the circumstances in which it took place: Feyerabend in hospital with an inoperable brain tumor, half his body paralysed, discussing what? Certainly not life after death as Socrates does in the PHAEDO, nor the necessity to obey the dictates of reason and the Laws. It is a thoroughly antiplatonic dialogue in that respect, as Feyerabend facing the prospect of his imminent fading away (this is the title of the heart-rending last chapter of KILLING TIME) discusses the need to abandon the rationalist attitude and to have total freedom from binding rules in research as in life. He envisages his own life as pervaded by freedom, from the assertion that in his teaching he was completely free to the declaration that he had never been hindered in anything (No, I was never hindered in anything. No, I was never hindered in anything (p161). Feyerabends insistence that he had never been hindered in anything comes as a reply to the question of his motives for dealing with science and with philosophy and of the origin of his

anarchistic ideas. Jung asks if they had their origin in some special negative experience (of frustration or constraint). Feyerabend reiterates his basic experience of freedom and declares that his motivation for dealing with science and philosophy was interest, the active interest of someone who plunges into a new activity and learns by immersion: Interest. Like somebody who starts playing the piano (p161). This emphasis on the positivity of his experience and of his motives comes as a necessary corrective to the widespread conception that Feyerabends work is essentially negative. This is far from being the case, but unfortunately some of his terminology and his general provocative attitude have contributed to this misunderstanding. Feyerabends abandon of rationalism stems from a dissatisfaction with a certain type of rationality whch submits action to universal rules (here many would agree) or even, more liberally, to a set of conditional contextual rules (the nec plus ultra of most relativists and multiculturalists). He defines rationality as: A set of rules which you are supposed to follow, and which says: If so then it will be this and that. (p162) In Deleuzian terms these rules (universal or contextual) are transcendent to the field that they constrain or regulate. What Feyerabend rejects is transcendent rationality and rules as transcendences imposing actions and hindering us in our research and in our life. To go back to Feyerabends conversion experience, von Weizscker did not abandon all argument. He refused to accept Feyerabends abstract arguments and treated them as irrelevant to the historical process of invention and adjustment that characterised the development of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory. He argued historically, and not abstractly, allowing the methods to emerge in the immanent field of research. Feyerabend remarks elsewhere (FAREWELL TO REASON, p317) that this attitude was not new, and constituted in effect a return to Mach. Indeed, we are confronted here with a case of the negation of the negation (Feyerabend would have been comfortable with this formulation as he admitted to being a Hegelian, but of a special sort: a pluralist Hegelian, or a Machian Hegelian). According to Feyerabend it is the rationalist who have abandonned (immanent) reason and replaced it with an abstract phantasm that they call Reason. So abandoning the phantasm of transcendence and returning to immanent reason looks like you are abandoning reason and defending irrationalism: some thinkers, having been confused and shaken by the complexities of history, have said farewell to reason and replaced it by a caricaturethey have continued calling this caricature reason (or Reasonto use my own terminology). Reason has been a great success among philosophers who dislike complexity and among politiciansIt is a disaster for the rest, i.e. practically all of us. It is time we bid it farewell (FAREWELL TO REASON, p17). So we must read farewell to Reason as in fact farewell to the farewell to reason, or Hello reason, my old friend.

3) THE ARROGANCE OF TRANSCENDENCE


Methodological Preamble: Deleuze remarked on several occasions that an important difference between Continental philosophy and anglophone analytic philosophy lay in their respective attitudes to the creation of concepts. Of course, Deleuze maintained that all good philosophy, both continental and analytic, is creation of concepts. However, whereas Continental philosophy preferred to highlight this creation by giving familiar terms unfamiliar meanings or by inventing new terms, Anglo-american philosophers would mask their conceptual creation behind ordinary vocabulary as far as possible. Continental philosophys concepts are signposted in a very conceptual style, and run the risk of being more rigid. Anglo-American philosophy is less conceptual in appearance (but this is, according to Deleuze, a false impression) and more fluid, harder to nail down. [Aside: this is why translating a text from English into French can seem to "clarify" it. This is not because of any intrinsic superiority of Gallic vocabulary (le mot juste!) or syntax (plethoric

parataxis!), but because the translator must make certain conceptual, and not just stylistic, choices. For example, Graham Harman is very fortunate to have a writer of the ilk of Olivier Dubouclez as translator, as his translation (L'OBJET QUADRUPLE) of Harman's THE QUADRUPLE OBJECT, is very elegant and in fact stylistically an improvement. It is better written than the original, but often at the price of slightly twisting the sense. The contrary effect can be seen with Feyerabend's books, at least according to him. He regretted that the fluidity and the ambiguity of his style could not be captured in translation, and that his books were reduced to lifeless caricatures of the original.] I would argue that fluidity is achieved by different means in French and in English. Be that as it may, I have always felt that there is a close parallel between Deleuzes ideas and those of Feyerabend, and that certain texts produce an intense resonance when juxtaposed. In particular, Feyerabends LAST INTERVIEW, which is remarkable for its concision, can best be illuminated by a comparison with Deleuzes little text PERICLES ET VERDI. I will not here be giving a summary of this book,itself quite concise and dense with meaning, but I think that by listing a few similarities I will be able to shed some light on both texts, though my focus is on Feyerabends interview. 1) Immanence: This is Deleuzes term for one of his favorite concepts, but I argue that it is omnipresent in Feyerabend from his anarchism without the dogmas to his rationalism without abstract principles. Deleuze contrasts the plane of immanence, which is anarchic in the sense that the principles and rules that constitute and regulate it are not over and above it but integrally part of it, with the plane of organisation, which is subjected to extrinsic principles of ordering. This helps us make sense of the fact that the LAST INTERVIEW begins apparently quite oddly with a question on the difficulty of getting new ideas published in professional philosophy journals. Feyerabend replies that he does not know enough about the administrative structure of the philosophy publishing business" (p160). One can see him immediately relating the problem to one of his principal concerns: the destructive , deforming, or hindering effect of extrinsic principles of organisation on the field that they regulate. He imagines the rejection letter as saying We cannot publish that because of our high standards, once again highlighting the problem of the systems of extrinsic standards that bring us under their judgement. Another seemingly perplexing trait is Feyerabends insistence that he is not a philosopher. One motive for that insistence comes from Feyerabends characterisation of his profession: My profession was: I was a professor of philosophy. This means a civil servant, ein Denkbeamter [my gloss: a thought-bureaucrat] (p165). This can be further clarified by a passage in FAREWELL TO REASON (p315): professors serve masters who pay them and tell them what to do: they are not free minds in search of harmony and happiness for all, they are civil servants (Denkbeamte, to use a marvellous German word, and their mania for order is not the result of a balanced inquiry, or of a closeness to humanity, it is a professional disease. This mania for order as extrinsic to and imposed on the matter it organises is what characterises the arrogance of those who operate in terms of transcendence. This is what nourishes Feyerabends contempt for the arrogance of success, which closes the interview: What does not please me is to see some idiots getting large amounts of money in important positions [while] some smart young people [are] being pushed around, with no jobs, no money, nothing (p168). My argument is that Feyerabend gives great importance to moods and feelings, but that these form no mere irrational jumble. Feyerabend is a philosopher, albeit not an abstract rationalist, and his affects expressed in the interview (and his other works) are fully convergent not with his philosophical position, for he has none, but with his conceptual creation and with his

philosophical process of individuation. Immanence and transcendence are concepts that are used explicitly by Deleuze, and implicitly by Feyerabend, for evaluating not just the form and content of philosophical theories but also concrete ways of living (and acting and feeling and perceiving) in the world.

4) DEALING WITH vs ADMINISTRATING


2) Dealing with: Joachim Jung uses the expression in his questions to Feyerabend, and Feyerabend lets it pass. As he has no qualms in correcting Jungs vocabulary when he doesnt like it, I take this letting pass for tacit acceptance. This expression, dealing with, is a good translation for grer, which is one of Deleuzes key concepts in P&V. Another term which Deleuze employs as a synonym is establishing human relations (instaurer des rapports humains), to which he adds inventing a process of rationalisation, which in turn he treats as a synonnym for politics: we invent a process of rationalisation whenever we establish human relations in any material, in any group, in any multiplicity. The act itself, being a relation, is always political. Reason as a process is political (P&V, p9). I think that a first example of this idea is in von Weizsckers refusal to give an abstract, rationally unified account of quantum theory nor even a rational reconstruction of its history. He told a story, the story of all the many little steps being made (FLI, p162). Feyerabend concluded that abstract arguments dont count when you deal with something which is as rich as nature or other human beings (FLI, p162, my italics). So Feyerabend abandoned the idea of a systematic account and embedded his ideas in a larger context historical and social forces, feelings and intuitions, catastrophes and serendipities. He felt the need not for slogans (such as, according to him rationalism provides), but for stories: I didnt teach anything. I told stories. I never gave a systematic account of everything. I was giving lectures, I told stories (FLI, p162). These stories allowed him to recount not just the concepts and arguments that were employed in science and philosophy, but the human relations. This is a constant theme in Feyerabends work, deriving from his observation that argument without illustration leads away from the human elements which affect the most abstract human problems (AGAINST METHOD, p281). Philosophy considered as the search for a systematic account leads away from the human elements and relations that make life interesting and worth living. And it is not just the systematic account that Feyerabend holds in horror, but the whole system of administrating our knowledge, our research, and our lives. This is behind his rejection of normal science and it is responsible for his demands for freedom of publication and of curriculum, and his outrage at the power and remuneration of administrators and bureaucrats at the expense of those that they administer into silence , sterility, or exclusion.

5) ONTOLOGICAL PLURALISM vs CONSTRUCTIVISM


On Feyerabends view of an immanent reason, the problem with rationalism is that it is not rational enough, because it ignores or impoverishes both our humanity and the natural world. Disconnected from the constraints imposed by the real, rationalism taken to the extreme would attribute reality only to its own constructions. Feyerabend is not a constructivist he does not agree that everything is a construction of the subject (or of one of its avatars, such as reason or society) nor even of some common basis such as genetics, as the case of astronomy (for example, our knowledge of the fixed stars) shows that our knowledge of the real goes beyond similarity with us, and that we need not have anything in common with the objects of our knowledge: At some point it ceases to make sense for me. I also think about and try to figure out what fixed stars have in common with me. So one understands lots of things. But you cannot say: the explanation is in a similar genetic code. The whole of astronomy is another example which goes

beyond similarity. It is this alterity and heterogeneity of the real which makes Feyerabend hostile to the idea of its status as a construction, which he gently makes fun of when Jung brings up Maturana and Varela: J: They explain subjectivity in a very reasonable manner. They say that everything is a construction of the subject. F: You are my construction? That means: if I stopped constructing you, you wouldnt be here anymore? (p163). He finds that such views impose too much unity on the heterogeneous material of the universe. I do not need to construct an object, or to be constructed myself in a similar way to the object, in order to know it. In fact, knowledge implies the primacy of dissimilarity, alterity, and multiplicity. This is the ontological counterpart to Feyerabends methodological pluralism, which he presents as a simple fact of the practice of science: Just look at the history of the sciences. Compare what some physicists have said at one time and at another time, in some [personal] letters. You find all sorts of methods. And this is not a philosophical position. This is just a statement of fact (p161). For Feyerabend we are not free to construct reality however we like, some approaches simply fail to be supported by the real. He is not a naive relativist who thinks that all ideas and all points of view are equally good: This is relativism because the type of reality encountered depends on the approach taken. However, it differs from the philosophical doctrine by admitting failure: not every approach succeeds (AGAINST METHOD, Postscript on Relativism). We can see this confrontation with failure and with the illusory nature of some of our constructions in Feyerabends dialogue with von Weizscker. Defending an abstract methodological pluralism, Feyerabend, made to consider the real developments of quantum theoretical research, saw that his systematic account was a phantasm unsupported by the real: I realized that what I was talking about was just a dream (p162). One of the limits to our rational constructions, he came to see, is the richness and heterogeneity of the raw material of the world: Excellent arguments dont count when you want to deal with something which is as rich as nature or other human beings (p162). Deleuze agrees that in our research and in our lives we are dealing with a rich heterogeneous material, and he signposts this with a philosophical word and concept: multiplicity. what we deal with according to Deleuze is always a group of multiplicities, along with various operations of rationalisation and of administration, of participating in the multiplicities or relating to them on the same plane, or of simplifying, unifying, and organising these multiplicities in the name of some transcendence such as Reason or the Subject. Feyerabend does not like such philosophical terms as subjectivity which assume a division that does not exist in reality: I wouldnt say that, because subjectivity is already a philosophical expression which assumes a division between something objective and something subjective. I would never assume that, because these things freely interpenetrate (p161). Given this free interpenetration of elements across abstract divisions, Feyerabend is acutely aware of the ambiguity of our words, our concepts, and our perceptions, and of the richness of the material that we participate in and try to deal with. Encountering von Weizsckers arguments allowed him to see the richness of the material, how there are so many little steps being made (p162). The historical development of quantum theory appeared to him as a rich and heterogeneous assemblage

of multiplicities that could not be organised into the simple narratives proposed by methodology freaks and by rational reconstructors. Weizsckers arguments caused Feyerabend to abandon the rational attitude (really, as we have seen, the transcendent attitude) and to adopt a freer, more open, more complex attitude - the participative attitude (or, in deleuzese, the immanent attitude). We can call this attitude pluralism, provided that we understand this aright as participative pluralism (or immanent pluralism) neither proposing nor making use of standards that do not themselves vary with the progression of the research that they judge. Thus a variety of approaches exist and are necessary because of the nature of reality itself, which imposes strict limits on our constructions. Which constructions work, and which fail, are not a matter of a priori constraints that guarantee the applicability or not of our conceptual schemes, but is an empirical question. This is why Feyerabend towards the end preferred to call his position ontological relativism to emphasise that pluralism was both required by Being and subject to its constraints. Feyerabend is fond of reminding us that not all constructions can succeed, not all forms of life can flourish. But more of them than we think can and do succeed and flourish. In this way, we see that both Feyerabends positive suggestions and his negative criticisms stem from his views on reality, are grounded in his ontology.

6) ON THE WAY TO IMMANENCE


Jungs first question, concerning what administrative means Feyerabend could recommend to promote new ideas, is a philosophical solecism. This is not the sort of question that Feyerabend wishes to address, and Jung admits that in reply to his very first letter Feyerabend said that he could not say anything about it. Feyerabend is against the principle of administration, he does not situate himself on that plane. Call it the plane of organisation, as Deleuze does, or the plane of administration, as Feyerabend implicitly posits. Nor does he share the mania for order of intellectual bureaucrats (Denkbeamte). Feyerabend situates himself on an altogether different plane, with a different attitude: the plane of immanence and the humanitarian (or, more broadly, participative) attitude. His motive in the dialogue is as always to get people to change planes and to transform their attitudes to pass from transcendence to immanence, from abstract reason to concrete participation. Jung has some trouble embodying this approach in his questions, despite having made some progress along this path. He is not imprisoned inside the professional walls of the rationalist philosopher. He wants to favorise new ideas and is worried about the closed mind of professional journals. He is interested in Feyerabends ideas and opinions, and shows us that he has read many of his texts. In his writing he has stepped outside the walls of academia, and considers himself one of the philosophers who write for newspapers, and not just for professional journals. He seems to be a nice guy, and this must be part of the reason that Feyerabend accepted an interview with him, in what Feyerabend surely knew would be his last published philosophical act, constituting a final testament. But Jung is only on the way to immanence. his language is still too contaminated with philosophical jargon and so contains presuppositions that Feyerabend rejects as betraying the richness and fluidity of reality. His questions are often either too abstract and philosophical or too concrete and merelly personal. In response, Feyerabend all too often has to correct his philosophical questions or has nothing much to say in reply to his personal ones. The interview is often frustrating in that regard. But this must be another reason that Feyerabend chose Jung for his last interview, instead of recording a conversation with his wife Grazia Borrini who he considers to have gone further on the path to immanence than himself. Deleuze has commented on this frustrating, sterile quality of many interviews, their imprisonment in rigid binary oppositions, their blindness to movement and becoming. He tells us that this is due to the privileging of reflection, of the reflective attitude. He contrasts this with a different attitude, more open to the fluidity and multiplicity of real life, which he calls the point of view of intensities, or the intensive attitude. So instead of taking part in a classical interview composed of reflective

questions and answers (which was the guiding principle for the collection in which DIALOGUES was published), Deleuze chose to embody the intensive attitude in a dialogue with Claire Parnet where the identities were inassignable: the first plan for a conversation between two people, in which one asked questions and the other replied, no longer had any value. The divisions had to rest on the growing dimensions of the multiplicity, according to becomings which were unattributable to individuals, since they could not be immersed in it without changing qualitatively (DIALOGUES, x). Feyerabend could have chosen this solution, but he tells us in KILLING TIME that this has been the case in his writing for the previous ten years: Grazia read some of my articles and criticized them quite thorougly the language, the presentation, the ideas I in turn read some of her work and made some suggestions here and there. After ten years of such exchanges our views have become rather similar except that Grazia knows a wealth of details and has the ability, which I lack, to grasp the simple ideas behind a complex and murky message (KILLING TIME, p175). Thus Feyerabend is an adept of the deleuzian post-identitarian dialogue. But he has something else in mind in this Last Interview, not to give us an already accomplished example of dialogue outside abstract categories and identities, but a sample of the transition from abstract to immanent thought. Feyerabend is quite frustrating: He refuses to suggest any administrative solutions, declares that he has had only good experiences and to have enjoyed total freedom, rejects Jungs philosophical jargon (subjectivity, construction), claims to have no philosophical position, calls methodological pluralism in the sciences just a statement of fact, maintains that arguments dont count, affirms his suspicion of anything positive in philosophy, brags that his aim is to upset people, terms rationality an emotional attitude etc. But whenever Jung gives in and asks a merely personal question Feyerabend replies laconically, with nothing much to say. At the end Feyerabend seems to have come full circle, denouncing the situation in the United States, where there are many people who are much better than there so called superiors idiots getting large amounts of money in important positions smart young people pushed around with no jobs, no money, nothing (p168). The whole interview has been a feyerabendian deconstruction of the initial question and of the principles and attitudes present in our institutions responsible for this state of affairs. Feyerabend speaks of his life yes, but he brings out a more than personal import, without letting it become impersonal. He teaches Jung , and through him he educates us, by telling stories that embody his humanitarian attitude, and his rejection of intellectualistic conceit and folly (AGAINST METHOD, Fourth Edition, p280). Perhaps the best statement of intention is in Feyerabends last letter: What I want to do is change your attitude. I want you to sense chaos where at first you noticed an orderly arrangement of well-behaved things and processes. Repeatedly Feyerabend finds that Jungs questions presuppose too much order, and he responds by trying to get him to sense in its place chaos, ambiguity, interpenetration, multiplicity, fluidity, difference, abundance. Jung is on the way to immanence, and just as anything can be distorted in the direction of transcendence (You can twist everything into a rational shape Anything can be bent in a direction, p167), so too anything can be pushed towards immanence. Jungs questions, with their transcendent presuppositions, are necessary to render that demonstration possible, so we can only be glad that he was there.

7) MULTIPLY THE MICROLOGIES


A common clich concerning Feyerabend is that his philosophy is mostly negative, and that he cannot compare with such systematic constructive thinkers as Deleuze or Badiou. As is often the case with this sort of widespread and persistent clich, there are real, though misleading, elements that support this impression of Feyerabends genralised negativity. A leading element is quite simply

the titles of his major works: AGAINST METHOD, FAREWELL TO REASON, THE TYRANNY OF SCIENCE these are negative titles indeed, confirming and fostering Feyerabends reputation as a crazy anarchistic nihilistic buffoon. However, one has just to read these books to perceive that Feyerabends enterprise is overwhelmingly positive, but in an unexpected fashion. This is the second source of Feyerabend being taken for a purely negative thinker: he has many creative ideas and positive suggestions, but he refuses to tie them together with some general stuff (cf. Last Interview, p163), as he claims systematic thinkers do. Feyerabend was often caricatured as a negative thinker, but he himself contributed to this caricature. As Deleuze says philosophers often present their newness to the world under the disguise of an old mask. Feyerabend is full of positive suggestions, but he often attributes them to others, or presents them contextually, or seems to be joking, or deconstructs them at the end. But even his deconstructions are based on a positive notion of the ambiguity and the fruitful imprecision of ordinary language. He argues that the natural sciences are a branch of the social sciences, or of the humanities, or of the arts. He incorporates the play of multiple hypotheses and multiple points of view in his work. He declares that he holds in horror nailing things down or being nailed down himself. So the positivity, being quite fluid, can easily be missed on a superficial reading. Following a remark by Babette Babich that philosophers mostly dont even read the books they discuss, I would like to indicate how misleading the titles cited are. AGAINST METHOD abounds in positive suggestions and developments to show how knowledge is part of a complex historical process (positive description), how we can usefully participate in such a process (positive recommendations), and what consequences follow for the ideas of knowledge and reality (positive epistemology and ontology). As Feyerabend explains, the title was a joke, aimed in the first instance at his friend Imre Lakatos, and more generally at rationalists of all ilks. FAREWELL TO REASON, as we saw in a previous post, means in fact farewell to the farewell to reason and its purport is positive. As to THE TYRANNY OF SCIENCE, this is not even Feyerabends title, which was CONFLICT AND HARMONY but was chosen by the editor, as was the cover depicting nuclear apocalypse. This is a good example of the self-perpetuating, self-validating nature of clichs: Feyerabend already had a reputation as a negative thinker, so this posthumous book was adapted to conform to that image, thus providing it with further confirmation. (NB: I can only assume that this choice was imposed by the publishers, as the editor Eric Oberheim is an impeccable and sensitive Feyerabend scholar). The image of the negative thinker is a mask worn by Feyerabend as part of a set of strategies to avoid the crystallisation of his ideas into a system. Anything new needs a mask to survive, or to render at least a minimum of communication possible, as Deleuze (citing Nietzsche) would often remind us in his discussion of philosophical creativity. (NB: an interesting example of this use of masks, but in reverse, is Graham Harman, whose philosophy in large part amounts to an outdated epistemology masquerading as a new ontology. Here the old wears the mask of the new, as I argue in my review of Harmans THE THIRD TABLE). Feyerabend does not wish to provide us with a systematic objective account, yet his work abounds in positive ideas and propositions. For him, when philosophy becomes a system the ambiguous , personal, fluid nature of ideas is lost: a philosophy is a collection of opinions which are tied together by some general stuff. Its much too rigid for my taste (p163). Feyerabends conclusion is that we can have the concrete, singular ideas and help them have their own immanent coherence by participating in their complex process, or we canhinder that coherence and those processes by imposing an extrinsic structure (the general stuff). So no paralysis or mutism is implied: I do not have a philosophy, I have lots of opinions (p162). It is interesting to note the convergence with Jean-Franois Lyotard on this point. Lyotard claimed that the age of the grand systems (of the systematic account of everything, in Feyerabends terms,

p162) is at an end. All that remains (and here he cites Adorno) is to accompany metaphysics in its fall and to multiply the micrologies. Feyerabend would have agreed, even if he tried to avoid such philosophical terminology. In his terms we could summarize: lets have more opinions without the general stuff, lets tell more stories.

8) CONCLUSION: WRITE YOURSELF A LETTER


We have seen that Feyerabends LAST INTERVIEW takes the form of a progressive deconstruction of the interviewers remaining prejudices concerning the necessity of a philosophical position that would give a systematic account of everything (p162). When Jung tries to compare Feyerabends ideas with the apparently related ideas of the Constructivists (p163), Feyerabend rejects the comparison in the name of alterity: he rejects the model of recognition based on similarity: The whole of astronomy is another example which goes beyond similarity (p163). Frustrated in his attempt at proposing a philosophical unity between Feyerabend, Kuhn and the Constructivists, Jung affirms that Feyerabends worldview is primarily very critical and negative and complains that he has not created a positive philosophical system (p163). Feyerabend declares his mistrust of the very desire for a positive philosophical system: I am very suspicious if someone wants something positive (p164). This is not because he is against positivity, but because he thinks that this desire for a positive system searches for positivity in the wrong place in the domain of theory. People want to objectivise their desire, their mania for order, and their prejudices in a system that is nothing more than a compilation of slogans that one can write down and which one can quote (p163). The real negativity is there, because reality is simplified and rigidified, and the human relation is lost. For Feyerabend there is no doubt, positivity lies in establishing human relations, i.e. open and kind and constructive relations, conducive to the affirmation of what is there but that we are unaware of if we are obsessed by the demand for objectivity and the need to make everything fit into our little systems: You find positive things not in theories but in human relationsSo there may be positive things and people just dont notice itSo the positive thing is in the people (p164). Feyerabend is not against theory and concepts in all circumstances. He is against the monologue that a positive system installs. We see the diffusion of a position that, cut off from open dialogue and the complexities of living contexts, becomes a patchwork of slogans and bogus concepts held together by bluff and ignorance and the smug lesson-giving of the founders and joiners of schools and churches to the task of thinking for themselves. For Feyerabend conceit and stupidity are everpresent dangers. Our need for a positive system can lead us to abandon our individuation and fall into the habit of maintaining inhuman relations in our thinking and in our lives, abandoning our freedom to universal principles and abstract phantasms. If people want something positive they should create it for themselves (p164). Feyerabend gives no universal principles, but rules of thumb to be applied or not and to be adapted according to the circumstances. One of the rules of thumb he advances is in response to the desire for positive theory which would not be a school philosophy. He recommends to those who want to combine theory and individuation: If they want something they should sit down and write themselves a letter (p164). One is reminded of a similar recommendation by Lyotard that people should shut themselves in a room and write their anamnesis. I think that the advice is the same, only tinted in Lyotards case by his asceticism, and in Feyerabends by his hedonism. Later, fearing the egoisim implied in the ordinary concept of hedonism, Feyerabend called it his humanitarianism. Writing yourself a letter includes the need for free and open dialogue to avoid the dangers of dogmatism. It interiorises the interplay between transcendent and immanent approaches. Writing a treatise implies taking up the enunciative position of the authority or the expert and using rigid academic language containing

philosophical assumptions, such as the division between something objective and something subjective, imposing boundaries where in fact things freely interpenetrate (p161). Writing a letter to oneself implies hopefully a more democratic enunciative posture, an experimentation with ideas, and a freer more ambiguous style of language. A letter implies an exchange over time and not a static system. We have also seen that Feyerabend is post-identitarian, so the notion of aletter to themselves is more complex than may appear at first glance. The self comports an internal multiplicity and is an open system without fixed boundaries in constant exchange with other such open systems, whether people or otherwise My blog posts are letters to myself, part and parcel of my process of individuation, of my anamnesis (remembering who I am outside the system of identities). So they are letters of invitation to you who read them, inviting you to share a moment of co-individuation, to be continued each in his or her own way.