Methodological Anarchism and the Growth of Science: A Critical Examination
Catalogue Vol.26 No. 1 Methodological Anarchism and the Growth... of Science: A Critical Examination



In this paper, methodological anarchism is critically examined as one of the scientific philosophies that enhance the growth of science. The paper argues that methodological anarchism informs the point that science should not limit its practice to only prescribed empirical methods and rationality but that it should be humanitarian (human oriented or focused) in its quest to understand the world. By this, methodological anarchism upholds that the humanitarian nature of its character will foster the rapid growth of science. The paper avers that the debate about the methods of science and the discontentment among its practitioners divides philosophers of science.

The paper shed light on the big picture of science and the possibility of vicissitudes of the natural world and at times, the failure of some prescribed methods bearing out their expected outcomes. This position is believed to be corroborated by the success of some of the seventeenth century great sciences that were not in compliance with the procedural methods of science. In this paper, it is critically and analytically argued that methodological anarchism enhances scientific growth because of its pragmatic and functional approach to science with its focus on what- ever insights that will help for the progress of humanity. The paper concludes by adding to the ongoing debate in philosophy of science particularly, on scientific

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There are two perspectives to science which is science as a body of knowledge and science as a method of acquiring knowledge. The latter is held in this paper as a means to attaining the former. Method is important for science as a body of knowledge. There are many methodological claims to science as well as methodologists of science. In this paper, the concern is on non-methodologists. Methodologists uphold scientific rules and procedure as:

...prerequisites for doing science. Non methodologists stand opposed to this claim. An example of non-methodological theory is methodological anarchism.

Methodological anarchism proposes the thesis that defends the assertion that does not thrive by uniform and homogeneous procedures. It supports that the horizon of science is multifaceted and therefore, any procedure it takes can accomplish the desired result.

Paul Feyerabend opines that

“...the events, the result, procedures that constitute the science have no common structure. There are no elements that occur in every scientific investigation but are missing elsewhere” (Feyerabend, Against Method 1).

Anarchism also explains the fact that not every discovery can be accounted for in the same manner. A procedure that produces result at one material time may prove abortive at another time. Similarly, a procedure that leads to a breakthrough in a context may be completely ineffective in another. What these scenarios entail are diverse procedures.

Methodological anarchism or anarchism, therefore, is not chaotic and does not imply chaos, but the appropriation of multiple approaches for a solution to a problem. Science is not a fixated enterprise but a progressive one. Such progress is underscored in science such as is involved in the Copernican revolution. Revolution involves change in operational matrices, changes which entail the involvement of many approaches to solving a named problem. A point of interest in revolution could be that a named approach could solve a problem it was not designed for. This succeeds in widening the horizon of science. Surely this is the point Thomas Kuhn is underscoring in his Structures of Scientific Revolutions. In it, he claims that

...the employment of several operational matrices often leads to revolution. One could then ask how different such revolution is from anarchism, paying particular attention to their modus operandi?

This paper argues out the claim that anarchism is both humanitarian and pragmatic. Hence, methodologists having discovered the limiting impact on science by the use of methods and conformity to scientific rationality deviate significantly and disguise themselves as methodologists while in practice, they are anarchists.

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