Against Method (1975)
Context: [continued conjecture on empiricism] At this point an "empirical" theory of the kind described becomes almost indistinguishable from a second-rate myth. In order to realize this, we need only consider a myth such as the myth of witchcraft and of demonic possession that was developed by the Roman Catholic theologians and that dominated 15th-, 16th- and 17th-century thought on the European continent. This myth is a complex explanatory system that contains numerous auxiliary hypotheses designed to cover special cases, so it easily achieves a high degree of confirmation on the basis of observation. It has been taught for a long time; its content is enforced by fear, prejudice, and ignorance, as well as by a jealous and cruel priesthood. Its ideas penetrate the most common idiom, infect all modes of thinking and many decisions which mean a great deal in human life. It provides models for the explanation of a conceivable event - Conceivable, that is, for those who have accepted it. This being the case, its key terms will be fixed in an unambiguous manner and the idea (which may have led to such a procedure in the first place) that they are copies of unchanging entities and that change of meaning, if it should happen, is due to human mistake - This idea will now be very plausible. Such plausibility reinforces all the manoeuvres which are used for the preservation of the myth (elimination of opponents included). The Conceptual apparatus of the theory and the emotions connected with its application, having penetrated all means of communication, all actions, and indeed the whole life of the community, now guarantees the success of methods such as transcendental deduction, analysis of usage, phenomenological analysis - which are means for further solidifying the myth... At the same time it is evident that all contact with the world is lost and the stability achieved, the semblance of absolute truth is nothing but absolute conformism. For how can we possibly test, or improve upon the truth of a theory if it is built in such a manner then any conceivable event can be described, and explained, in terms of its principles? The only way of investigating such all-embracing principles would be to compare them with a different set of equally all embracing principles- but this procedure has been excluded from the very beginning.