Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Kathleen Okruhlik

2nd Supervisor

Gillian Barker

3rd Supervisor

Chris Smeenk


The goal of this dissertation is to reconstruct, critically evaluate, and apply the pluralism of Paul Feyerabend. I conclude by suggesting future points of contact between Feyerabend’s pluralism and topics of interest in contemporary philosophy of science. I begin, in Chapter 1, by reconstructing Feyerabend’s critical philosophy. I show how his published works from 1948 until 1970 show a remarkably consistent argumentative strategy which becomes more refined and general as Feyerabend’s thought matures. Specifically, I argue that Feyerabend develops a persuasive case against rationalism, or the thesis that there exist normative and exclusive rules of scientific rationality. In Chapter 2, I reconstruct Feyerabend’s pluralism and detail its relationship to his humanitarianism and epistemological anarchism. I understand Feyerabend’s pluralism as the combination of the principles of proliferation and tenacity. I show the evolution and justification of these principles from Feyerabend’s early papers until the late 1970s. In Chapter 3, I defend Feyerabend’s pluralism from its most prominent criticisms. I then clarify that Feyerabend’s pluralism amounts to a conception of the logic of theory pursuit and modify his view using insights from C.S. Peirce, Pierre Duhem, and Michael Polanyi. From Peirce, I show how economic, sociological, and value-laden features of theory pursuit may be used to constrain proliferation and tenacity. From Duhem and Polanyi, I try to show the proper role of tacit knowledge within a Feyerabendian framework. Finally, I show what implications Feyerabend’s pluralism has for models of distributing funds within scientific communities. I contend that it provides a more promising model that the ‘well-ordered science’ proposal advanced by numerous philosophers and social scientists. Specifically, I aim to understand what taking Feyerabend’s pluralism seriously entails for principles of balancing funding allocation decisions and the role of peer-review in evaluating the potential success of research proposals. I conclude by suggesting future lines of research for further analyzing and applying Feyerabend’s pluralism.