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Killing Time: The Autobiography of Paul Feyerabend [Paperback]

Paul Feyerabend
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 15 1996
Killing Time is the story of Paul Feyerabend's life. Finished only weeks before his death in 1994, it is the self-portrait of one of this century's most original and influential intellectuals.

Trained in physics and astronomy, Feyerabend was best known as a philosopher of science. But he emphatically was not a builder of theories or a writer of rules. Rather, his fame was in powerful, plain-spoken critiques of "big" science and "big" philosophy. Feyerabend gave voice to a radically democratic "epistemological anarchism:" he argued forcefully that there is not one way to knowledge, but many principled paths; not one truth or one rationality but different, competing pictures of the workings of the world. "Anything goes," he said about the ways of science in his most famous book, Against Method. And he meant it.

Here, for the first time, Feyerabend traces the trajectory that led him from an isolated, lower-middle-class childhood in Vienna to the height of international academic success. He writes of his experience in the German army on the Russian front, where three bullets left him crippled, impotent, and in lifelong pain. He recalls his promising talent as an operatic tenor (a lifelong passion), his encounters with everyone from Martin Buber to Bertolt Brecht, innumerable love affairs, four marriages, and a career so rich he once held tenured positions at four universities at the same time.

Although not written as an intellectual autobiography, Killing Time sketches the people, ideas, and conflicts of sixty years. Feyerabend writes frankly of complicated relationships with his mentor Karl Popper and his friend and frequent opponent Imre Lakatos, and his reactions to a growing reputation as the "worst enemy of science."

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If you view the Philosophy professor as a stodgy old curmudgeon wrapped up in theories, and forever spouting eminently sensible nonsense, Paul Feyerabend's autobiography may change your view. Then again, it may not, because he held the same view himself. Iconoclast, non-conformist and brilliant philosopher, Feyerabend reveals his roots through unadorned, journalist-style prose -- his childhood in Vienna, his aspirations to sing opera, his stint in World War II as a German soldier, his time with Popper in London, his love affairs, marriage and even a little philosophy for good measure.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Typical Feyerabend arrogance, spiced with unbearable charm. Brimming with intimate details of his sexual experiences, fighting with the Nazi Army on the Western Front, his lifelong (almost) apathy toward academic philosophy, and his real passion: opera singing. Philosophy, it turns out, was "just a job." I had *no* idea that Paul Feyerabend once possessed a "world voice" for opera. It was opera he loved. About 1/3 of the story is about operas he'd seen worldwide, who sang the roles, his critical opinion of the singing!
Also includes his bookish, only-child upbringing; his horribly depressed mother and her suicide in his teens; his adult depressions; his affairs and marriages; and finally, his mature love for the beautiful Graziana, which allowed him some actual truth in this life. It ends with Graziana's reminder that most of Feyerabend's life was spent in chronic pain, the result of a gunshot to his groin during the Nazi retreat from Russia. That was the injury which rendered him sexually impotent at 20 - a recurring theme in the story.
By the last page, I was in tears. Imagine tears of compassion after reading the words of that anarchist maniac who wrote "Against Method"!! But tears there were. It's a very good book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An awesome spiritual odyssee Nov. 4 2001
Format:Paperback
This is a slim volume, barely 200 pages, but it charts an awesome spiritual odyssee. Paul Feyerabend - enfant terrible of late 20th century philosophy - looked ruthlessly in the mirror and painted an unadorned picture of himself. At the end of his life, he painfully recognised that its course had been shaped by absences, rather than by specific events or, for that matter, ideas: absence of purpose, of content, of a focused interest, absence of moral character, absence of warmth and of social relationships.
Only when Feyerabend approached the final fifteen years of his life and settled as a professor in the philosophy of science in Zürich - after having lectured four decades at Anglo-American universities - he started to relax. And eventually, a woman came and set things right. In 1983 he met the Italian physicist Grazia Borrini for the first time. Five years later they married. His relationship with Mrs. Borrini must have been the single most important event in Feyerabend's life. Reading his autobiography is an experience akin to listening to Sibelius' tone-poem 'Nightride and Sunrise': after 1983 the colours change dramatically and his prose is infused with warmth and immense gratefulness. It is a delight to read his rapt eulogies on the companion of the last decade of his life, on his most fortunate discovery of true love and friendship. Indeed, although Feyerabend is not interested in 'spoiling' his autobiography with an extensive reiteration of his philosophical positions, there are a few messages he clearly wants to drive home. The central role in life of love and friendship is one of them. Without these "even the noblest achievements and the most fundamental principles remain pale, empty and dangerous" (p. 173).
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5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing free-thinker March 16 1999
Format:Paperback
Paul Feyerabend's autobiography is remarkably open and frank, fitting with the way this man wrote, thought, and led his life. Feyerabend was the man who, perhaps more than anyone else, has clearly pointed out that science has become the religion of western culture. His autobiography let me learn a little about what made this man so unafraid of thinking differently from other people. I also found it to be poignant, particularly in the picture of a boy raised without love, who as an adult is captivated by his love of beauty in music and the theater, and who finally begins to grasp what love is at the end of his life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One meets too few like him Aug. 1 2000
Format:Paperback
Simply a wonderful book repleat with Feyerabend's astonishing honesty and frankness no matter the consequences, his experiences of world war II stand out as remarkable in the face of horrors which most people would glady forget if they could. His energy in experiencing life and especially in the openness needed for the full experience of love is obvious when he notes that philosphy is irrelevant next to this. Written without sentimentality and an eagerness for just living the book reveals the loss suffered by the world when Feyerabend died.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent March 13 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is an honest book by an honest man. The poverty of authority and the creativity of the individual (who can be honest to HIMSELF!) One of the most entertaining books I have read!
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