pp 1–31 | Cite as

Feyerabend’s well-ordered science: how an anarchist distributes funds

  • Jamie ShawEmail author


To anyone vaguely aware of Feyerabend, the title of this paper would appear as an oxymoron. For Feyerabend, it is often thought, science is an anarchic practice with no discernible structure. Against this trend, I elaborate the groundwork that Feyerabend has provided for the beginnings of an approach to organizing scientific research. Specifically, I argue that Feyerabend’s pluralism, once suitably modified, provides a plausible account of how to organize science. These modifications come from C.S. Peirce’s account of the economics of theory pursuit, which has since been corroborated by empirical findings in the social sciences. I go on to contrast this approach with the conception of a ‘well-ordered science’ as outlined by Kitcher (Science, truth, and democracy, Oxford University Press, New York, 2001), Cartwright (Philos Sci 73(5):981–990, 2006), which rests on the assumption that we can predict the content of future research. I show how Feyerabend has already given us reasons to think that this model is much more limited than it is usually understood. I conclude by showing how models of resource allocation, specifically those of Kitcher (J Philos 87:5–22, 1990), Strevens (J Philos 100(2):55–79, 2003) and Weisberg and Muldoon (Philos Sci 76(2):225–252, 2009), unwittingly make use of this problematic assumption. I conclude by outlining a proposed model of resource allocation where funding is determined by lottery and briefly examining the extent to which it is compatible with the position defended in this paper.


Feyerabend Funding distribution Well-ordered science Anarchism Economics of theory pursuit Values in science 



Special thanks to Kathleen Okruhlik, Chris Smeenk, Gillian Barker, Anjan Chakravarrty, Eric Desjardins, and two anonymous referees for their helpful feedback on earlier versions of this paper.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ryerson UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.The Rotman Institute of PhilosophyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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