Joseph Schumpeter and Paul Feyerabend on Galileo

In Against Method (Verso, London, 1975, 1988, 1993), Paul Feyerabend argues that Galileo’s theories of astronomy an physics were not intellectually or empirically superior to the theories they were contesting. In this influential work on the philosophy of science, Feyerabend argues that Galileo’s theories won out because of social and political forces inclined to strengthening the secular sphere against the church; they supported Galileo regardless of scientific criteria in a struggle against the church. Feyerabend extends this into a general theory of the irrational bases to developments in science.
In 1942, the economist Jospeph Schumpeter (like Feyerabend an Austrian who made his life and career in the English speaking world) published Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. This suggested the inevitability of socialism, though probably of a limited kind, and explained why this would not be an advance for human civilisation. In discussing bourgeois civilisation, Schumpeter refers to the support of the early bourgeoisie (page 124), arguing that they found Galileo to be an individualist like themselves. While Schumpeter is arguing that bourgeois civilisation is the best civilisation, he does not claim that the bourgeoisie supported Galileo for reasons of scientific truth; they simply thought his personal style resembled their own superior ethical values of individual effort and rational risk taking.
I’ve quickly checked the scholarly literature through GoogleScholar. I found some articles linking Schumpeter to Thomas Kuhn, as well as Feyerabend, but not with reference to that sociological explanation of the success of Galileo’s theories. What I found compares Schumpeter’s notion of creative destruction in a capitalist economy, with Kuhn’s idea of paradogm shifts and scientific revolution, along with Feyerabend’s epistemological anarchy. So what has been considered is a parallel between change in science and change in the economy.
As far as I can see this clear connection around the sociology of early modern science has been overlooked. Is the connection just coincidence, or did Feyerabend read Schumpeter?

2 thoughts on “Joseph Schumpeter and Paul Feyerabend on Galileo

    • That sounds very plausible. It’s interesting that both Brecht and Schumpeter should take that interest in Galileo, which I think invites a broader history of ideas/cultural history investigation.

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