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Conquest of Abundance: A Tale of Abstraction versus the Richness of Being Paperback – May 1 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 303 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 1 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226245349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226245348
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #735,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Feyerabend (1924-1994) was the preeminent antisystemic philosopher. His most famous work is the aptly titled Against Method. This posthumous work--half unfinished manuscript, half related essays compiled by Bert Terpstra with the help and support of Feyerabend's widow--attempts to understand how the scientific worldview gained its foothold and at what cost to experiential richness. Feyerabend is enthralled by the posited split between appearance and reality that exploded in the philosophies of Xenophanes, Parmenides and Plato and that was countered by Aristotle's insistence that specific practices involve specific virtues, divorced from any transcendent good. From that starting point he explores the scientific worldview--the reigning view of Western civilization--and articulates what he believes has been gained and lost by such a commitment to categorization and abstraction. Feyerabend's habit of repeatedly returning to key examples--heightened by textual overlaps between essays and unfinished manuscript--should draw readers into his idiosyncratic exploration of how knowledge is acquired and named, radically deepening their understanding of the issues at stake. Feyerabend displays a marvelous knack for bringing alive fully rounded views. The result is a first-rate and consistently pleasurable meditation on epistemology. 19 illustrations. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Best known for Against Method (1975), his critique of the philosophy of science, and for his autobiography, Killing Time, Feyerabend (1924-94) was working on this tentatively titled volume when he died of a brain tumor. Completed via Feyerabend's notes, letters, and lectures, it is a fascinating work. Feyerabend argues that humans have an innate desire to simplify reality into stereotypes and that since the Renaissance this has been done largely through the methods of science, resulting in the loss of a rich part of reality. Using examples from various disciplines, he argues persuasively that no one epistemology has priority over others. The ascendancy of science has been examined in greater detail--in Morris Berman's The Reenchantment of the World, for example--and Feyerabend does not carry his arguments as far as Berman. However, as an antidote to the claim that a particular epistemological paradigm is superior to others, Feyerabend's book warrants serious consideration. Recommended for all libraries.
-Terry C. Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Format: Hardcover
The philosopher of science and contrarian anarchist thinker, Paul Feyerabend, was born in Austria in 1924 and died in 1994. At the time of his death, he was working on a book tentatively titled "conquest of abundance". In his autobiography "killing time", he said of this book:
"The book is intended to show how specialists and common people reduce the abundance that surrounds and confuses them, and the consequences of their actions...I also try to emphasize the essential ambiguity of all concepts...without ambiguity, no change ever... Conquest of Abundance should be a simple book, pleasant to read and easy to understand...one of my motives (is) ...to free people from the tyranny of philosophical obfuscators and abstract concepts such as "truth", "reality", or "objectivity", which narrow people's vision and ways of being in the world".
After his death, his widow cooperated with Bert Terpstra to produce this book from the notes and essays that he left behind. The book consists of four chapters put together (very scrupulously) from Paul's notes; followed by 12 essays that he had written on similar themes. It is a collage rather than a systematic and well-organized argument, but considering that Paul Feyerabend was the pre-eminent anti-systemic philosopher of the twentieth century, this is quite appropriate!
The first chapter presents an episode from the "odyssey" and Feyerabend uses it to argue his contention that "potentially, every culture is all cultures". Every cultural trait possesses an ambiguity that allows its meaning and usage to be modified by creative individuals as the need arises.
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Format: Hardcover
The wonderful, idiosyncratic and radical philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, has written a book about the historical eradication or diminishment of the full richness of being itself. By this he means the experience of each and every human being on the planet with the totality of his/her culture, thoughts, feelings, prejudices, opinions and so on and so on. This is of course wildly expansive and demonstrates the variety as experienced by people everywhere. Feyerabend's main contention is that, over time, and through the gradual abstraction practised by select people, often philosophers or "scientists" or anyone who is pulled in this direction through his/her education, influence of others or a bent away from the "scary real world", the fullness of one's world is slowly made barren, empty of life. Anyone who grows up in the education system of the Western world can confirm this idea (the teachers of Robin Williams calibre aka "Dead Poet's Society" are few and far between). Unfortunately, science especially has been progressively dehumanised not through a need to objectify but rather through the belief that this is necessary or the "real" world will escape us. Now more than ever this is powerfully evident and as Feyerabend notes: "...the arts whose popularity at any rate far outweighs that of the sciences eg rock music, film etc" (pp 261). No longer, or infrequently so, are readers captivated by the incredible intuitive power of an Aristotle or a Heraclitus. There is a general need for something which should replace the now discredited world religions, science or the abstraction it now stands for is not it.Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
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Format: Hardcover
The wonderful, idiosyncratic and radical philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, has written a book about the historical eradication or diminishment of the full richness of being itself. By this he means the experience of each and every human being on the planet with the totality of his/her culture, thoughts, feelings, prejudices, opinions and so on and so on. This is of course wildly expansive and demonstrates the variety as experienced by people everywhere. Feyerabend's main contention is that, over time, and through the gradual abstraction practised by select people, often philosophers or "scientists" or anyone who is pulled in this direction through his/her education, influence of others or a bent away from the "scary real world", the fullness of one's world is slowly made barren, empty of life. Anyone who grows up in the education system of the Western world can confirm this idea. Unfortunately, science especially has been progressively dehumanised not through a need to objectify but rather through the belief that this is necessary or the "real" world will escape us. Now more than ever this is powerfully evident and as Feyerabend notes: "...the arts whose popularity at any rate far outweighs that of the sciences eg rock music, film etc" (pp 261). No longer, or infrequently so, are readers captivated by the incredible intuitive power of Aristotle or Heraclitus. There is a general need for something which should replace the now discredited world religions, science or the abstraction it now stands for is not it.Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
a fine introduction to a great humanist Sept. 11 2001
By Omar N. Ali - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The philosopher of science and contrarian anarchist thinker, Paul Feyerabend, was born in Austria in 1924 and died in 1994. At the time of his death, he was working on a book tentatively titled "conquest of abundance". In his autobiography "killing time", he said of this book:
"The book is intended to show how specialists and common people reduce the abundance that surrounds and confuses them, and the consequences of their actions...I also try to emphasize the essential ambiguity of all concepts...without ambiguity, no change ever... Conquest of Abundance should be a simple book, pleasant to read and easy to understand...one of my motives (is) ...to free people from the tyranny of philosophical obfuscators and abstract concepts such as "truth", "reality", or "objectivity", which narrow people's vision and ways of being in the world".
After his death, his widow cooperated with Bert Terpstra to produce this book from the notes and essays that he left behind. The book consists of four chapters put together (very scrupulously) from Paul's notes; followed by 12 essays that he had written on similar themes. It is a collage rather than a systematic and well-organized argument, but considering that Paul Feyerabend was the pre-eminent anti-systemic philosopher of the twentieth century, this is quite appropriate!
The first chapter presents an episode from the "odyssey" and Feyerabend uses it to argue his contention that "potentially, every culture is all cultures". Every cultural trait possesses an ambiguity that allows its meaning and usage to be modified by creative individuals as the need arises. Some philosophers are obsessed with abstracting a rigid "true meaning" from every situation (the "true scientific method", the "true Homeric viewpoint" and so on) and freezing it at that point. This procedure restricts the freedom of human beings to confront the richness of being and extract meaning from it with tools that themselves change their meaning as they are used.
This argument is then repeated in various forms throughout the book. Feyerabend wants to challenge the most cherished prejudices of the "educated person". The belief that abstracting the essential features out of a rich and variegated scene is somehow closer to the truth comes in for harsh criticism. Feyerabend does not deny that such abstraction may have its uses. But he feels that we have raised it to a fetish and have lost sight of the importance of the details. In trying to see the wood all the time, we have lost sight of the trees. The wood may be the correct image for SOME problems, but the individual trees are also the correct image for other problems. And no procedure exists to tell us beforehand what the correct image may be. Individual human beings facing particular problems use what they can, and how they can, to get the answers that interest them. Epistemological anarchy is not only desirable, it already exists. But all too frequently, we are being asked to deny this abundance and accept an impoverished and highly abstract picture as "THE TRUTH". He admires Aristotle above all other philosophers because he did not reduce the abundance of being to one formula. He investigated a hundred fields and tacked each on its own merits. And much to Feyerabend delight, he said " real is what plays a central role in the kind of life we identify with".
Paul Feyerabend was not a detached and objective philosopher. He denied that any such species exists. He was frequently contrarian and deliberately provocative. Fashionable beliefs like the supremacy of reason and the superiority of abstract monotheism are vigorously attacked and in the last (typical) chapter he even takes issue with a petition to encourage the teaching of philosophy. By the time he is finished, we seem to be left with no certainties to stand on. But to him, that is not the end of the story. Because the story is not just philosophy or science or theology or any other form of codified knowledge. All this is just one aspect of our existence, and to Feyerabend, a frequently treacherous and ephemeral aspect. Life is much bigger than these abstract notions. The crucial judgment on a life is not about the philosophy or theology that the person claimed to follow, but the kind of life that he actually lived. In his acclaimed autobiography "killing time", Feyerabend says:
"It seems to me that love and friendship play a central role and without them even the noblest achievements and the most fundamental principles remain pale, empty and dangerous".
For Feyerabend, "A humane science must be adapted to the requirements of a balanced and rewarding life".
"Conquest of abundance" is an excellent (and very readable) guide to the philosophical obsessions of Paul Feyerabend and is a must read for anyone interested in philosophy in general and the philosophy of science in particular. But to really understand his thinking and what lay behind it, it is also essential to read his autobiography and finally, to take his objections seriously and actually doubt the certainties we have been taught. The results can be surprising!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A good book.... and the most accessible Feyerabend.... Aug. 11 2000
By J. Michael Showalter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is the only book that Feyerabend really meant for a popular audience-- not that he was really a very esoteric philosopher to begin with. But, in this text, he comes across as brilliant, engaging, and very erudite and posits a case for how we think... and how we classify reality....
If you haven't read any Feyerabend.... as hated as he is by scientists, etc. he is worth reading. REALLY worth reading.... and this is perhaps the best place to start....
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A good book with ideas which need to be expressed, NOW March 28 2001
By Frank Bierbrauer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The wonderful, idiosyncratic and radical philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, has written a book about the historical eradication or diminishment of the full richness of being itself. By this he means the experience of each and every human being on the planet with the totality of his/her culture, thoughts, feelings, prejudices, opinions and so on and so on. This is of course wildly expansive and demonstrates the variety as experienced by people everywhere. Feyerabend's main contention is that, over time, and through the gradual abstraction practised by select people, often philosophers or "scientists" or anyone who is pulled in this direction through his/her education, influence of others or a bent away from the "scary real world", the fullness of one's world is slowly made barren, empty of life. Anyone who grows up in the education system of the Western world can confirm this idea (the teachers of Robin Williams calibre aka "Dead Poet's Society" are few and far between). Unfortunately, science especially has been progressively dehumanised not through a need to objectify but rather through the belief that this is necessary or the "real" world will escape us. Now more than ever this is powerfully evident and as Feyerabend notes: "...the arts whose popularity at any rate far outweighs that of the sciences eg rock music, film etc" (pp 261). No longer, or infrequently so, are readers captivated by the incredible intuitive power of an Aristotle or a Heraclitus. There is a general need for something which should replace the now discredited world religions, science or the abstraction it now stands for is not it.
Feyerabend is radical in the sense that he knows there are more important things than science or philosophy, he continuously examines his own views and freely criticises them and explores them further rather than sticking to some form of personal dogma which is the current form of practice, no doubt strongly supported through the culture of the individual which now dominates the western world. He criticises philosophy for its lost concern for the world it once possessed (eg Aristotle) and the empty murmurings about abstract principles rather than the problems of the world such as famine, violence and environmental disasters.
As such this book is to be commended as a needed critique. However, this book is often a rehash of Feyerabend's earlier ideas so intensly expressed in his radical "Against Method". This book lacks the earlier energy and power, but Feyerabend has lost none of his intelligence or wit even though this stood out far more through humourous twists and outright damnation in his earlier work. It is also unfortunate he never finished this book with, I believe, at most half of it completed before his death. I felt that the earlier parts, which investigate the Greeks and the start of abstraction, would have been thoroughly complemented with later historical eras and at least a chapter devoted to the opening of society and a renewal of the zest for life which Feyerabend wanted to invigorate today's world with.
The publishers note that it is a book for every man and is supposed to be written for anyone to read and enjoy not as a technical exercise. Rather we find that the arguments are not straighforward or that enjoyable and I feel the book is intended far more for the interested scientists and philosophers "out there" who are looking for a way to energise their own fields.
Nonetheless a good book with ideas which need to be expressed, NOW
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
a good book with ideas which need to be expressed, NOW March 17 2001
By Frank Bierbrauer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The wonderful, idiosyncratic and radical philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, has written a book about the historical eradication or diminishment of the full richness of being itself. By this he means the experience of each and every human being on the planet with the totality of his/her culture, thoughts, feelings, prejudices, opinions and so on and so on. This is of course wildly expansive and demonstrates the variety as experienced by people everywhere. Feyerabend's main contention is that, over time, and through the gradual abstraction practised by select people, often philosophers or "scientists" or anyone who is pulled in this direction through his/her education, influence of others or a bent away from the "scary real world", the fullness of one's world is slowly made barren, empty of life. Anyone who grows up in the education system of the Western world can confirm this idea. Unfortunately, science especially has been progressively dehumanised not through a need to objectify but rather through the belief that this is necessary or the "real" world will escape us. Now more than ever this is powerfully evident and as Feyerabend notes: "...the arts whose popularity at any rate far outweighs that of the sciences eg rock music, film etc" (pp 261). No longer, or infrequently so, are readers captivated by the incredible intuitive power of Aristotle or Heraclitus. There is a general need for something which should replace the now discredited world religions, science or the abstraction it now stands for is not it.
Feyerabend is radical in the sense that he knows there are more important things than science or philosophy, he continuously examines his own views and freely criticises them and explores them further rather than sticking to some form of personal dogma which is the current form of practice, no doubt strongly supported through the culture of the individual which now dominates the western world. He criticises philosophy for its lost concern for the world it once possessed (eg Aristotle) and the empty murmurings about abstract principles rather than the problems of the world such as famine, violence and environmental disasters.
As such this book is to be commended as a needed critique. However, this book is often a rehash of Feyerabend's earlier ideas so intensly expressed in his radical "Against Method". This book lacks the earlier energy and power, but Feyerabend has lost none of his intelligence or wit even though this stood out far more through humourous twists and outright damnation in his earlier work. It is also unfortunate he never finished this book with, I believe, at most half of it completed before his death. I felt that the earlier parts, which investigate the Greeks and the start of abstraction, would have been thoroughly complemented with later historical eras and at least a chapter devoted to the opening of society and a renewal of the zest for life which Feyerabend wanted to invigorate today's world with.
The publishers note that it is a book for every man and is supposed to be written for anyone to read and enjoy not as a technical exercise. Rather we find that the arguments are not straighforward or that enjoyable and I feel the book is intended far more for the interested scientists and philosophers "out there" who are looking for a way to energise their own fields.
Nonetheless a good book with ideas which need to be expressed, NOW.


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