A short while ago, I wrote a favorable review of "Against Method" by Paul Feyerabend. This book, though, is much more difficult to swallow. Feyerabend suggests that many Western intellectuals (by this, he usually means Karl Popper) are skeptical of relativism and after reading this, I can see why. Feyerabend is almost too good at what he does. The relativism, or Rorty-like 'pragmatism', that he seems to champion, undercuts him at every turn.
First, this book focuses more on culture than scientific belifs. Feyerabend makes clear from the get-go that he is a believer in 'democratic relativism" - literally, that what works for one culture may not work for another. This is really not a radical view untill you take Feyerabends conclusion that because of this, there can be no objective truths, standards, or even critierion for deciphering either. Here's how he undercuts himself though. For Feyerabend, this relativism demands that we recognize our ability to learn from other cultures, engage in dialogue and even argue from time to time. The problem is that if reason is just as good (no better) than any other way of proceeding, it is difficult to imagine how dialogue can proceed, outside of a reasoned structure. At the end of the first essay, Feyerabend stretches further still. If quarks and gods are both theoretical (that is, not empirical) then isn't it strange to regard quarks as more 'real' than gods. Well, Paul, not if you consider that quarks are a) open to falsification, b) accountable to scientific prediction that CAN falsify them and c) have so far enabled us to make accurate predictions without being falsified, then I guess the answer is "no".
Many readers will also read this book as a diatribe against Karl Popper. I would urge these readers, if they've not read Popper, to first read either "Conjectures and Refutations" or "Objective Knowledge". Many of Feyerabends characterizations are wrong. Feyerabend constantly underestimates Popper's recongintion of theory and ideology in conjectures and observations. Feyerabend also miscarachterizes Popper's falsification as a view that as soon as an individual sees her theory falsified, she should abandon it as quick as possible. Nope! She should defend it while keeping in mind that she could be wrong. Third, Feyerabend misconstrues Popper as an elitist of science who claims that Western scientific conclusions are the most valid. Popper would be the first to admit that good ideas can come from anywhere. Popper's only suggestion is that matriculation of those ideas into our lives involves making up our minds, which involves reason and that empirical methods are good insofar as they HAVE TO BE the common denominator of intersubjective discussion. Overall, Feyerabends conclusions are all-in-all self defeating, his arguments are largely misunderstandings and his book is verging on being a waste of time.