About this blog

So why call a blog "Anything Goes"?

Does it mean there are no standards, no content guidelines...what?

Good questions really. I outlined my reasons in a blog post way back in January 2003.

The phrase "anything goes" is a reference to Paul K Feyerabend and his philosophy of science as first outlined in his book Against Method.

Feyerabend was critiquing various rationalist conceptions of scientific method, in particular logical positivism and falsificationism. His argument demonstrated how the purported methods were indeed no method at all, hence

'Anything goes' is not the one and only 'principle' of a new methodology, recommended by me. It is the only way in which those firmly committed to universal standards and wishing to understand history in their terms can describe my account of traditions and research practices ... If this account is correct then all a rationalist can say about science (and about any other interesting activity) is: anything goes.

Feyerabend was not promoting this view, nor advocating "epistemological anarchy"; he was explaining that there is no rationalist conception of scientific method. Theories are used because they are useful, not because they are "true" or proven.

It does mean that Feyerabend acknowledges that real scientists simultaneously use multiple theories about the same things. The art is in knowing where to apply each.

In this he is actually closer to the likes of James Franklin and the late David Stove (who wrote a book critiquing Popper and the post-Popperians under the title Anything Goes) who actually support a kind of inductivist argument. More recently this has been decorated with the high minded title of Bayesian theory.

What it means for me is that it is okay to question existing orthodoxy. In fact, orthodoxy should be questioned. It is also okay to adopt multiple theories.

Ultimately it all supports a Socratic view of the world that real progress comes from conflict not from agreement. We need to present different world views and different opinions if we are to progress.

So anything goes. Any proposition can be accepted for the purposes of discovering the consequences of it.

But equally, anything that then is inconsistent with our experience should be regarded as "probably untrue or not useful".