Theatre, knowledge and education in a free society à la Feyerabend, Brecht (and their secret mentor Nietzsche)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


How did Paul Feyerabend come to ponder the role of theatre for the flourishing of the individual in a free society? In this presentation, I will take you to the smoky theatres of post-WWII Weimar, where Feyerabend engages in heated discussions about the relationship between dramatic structure and ideology. I will speculate about Feyerabend's secret (or perhaps not to secret?) regrets about not becoming a man of the stage and introduce you to his artistic shadow-self, German theatre maker Bertolt Brecht. Brecht will enter the stage as an anarchist epistemologist theatre maker working to free us from a mechanically lived life, but hiding an only all-too-human tendency of turning artistic representational activity into just another truth machine (for the revolutionary Marxist cause). Committed to rejecting the theatre as a moral institution, but certain about its potential to liberate us, Feyerabend and Brecht are shown to believe: that art can bring us pleasure (the anarchist streak), affect the eventual improvement of condition (the Marxist streak) and, most importantly, deepen our enjoyment and love of life. I will discuss Brecht's estrangement effect as a pedagogical device in this life-affirming quest and reveal both Brecht's and Feyerabend's secret mentor: Herr Nietzsche. Nietzsche, like Feyerabend, lays the blame for our loss of joie de vivre in knowledge creation at the feet of Sokrates' logic. In order to investigate this possibly pompous claim, we will travel to the magical world of the pre-Socratic myths and Homerian epics, only to find (not the creative individual but) humans thrown into a social world enwrought with 'enigmatic causes, comprehensive effects and undesired side effects' (Feyerabend 2019: 128). Can the ancients' embrace of the strangeness of the world teach us something about the nature of the relationship between incommensurable forms of knowledge, that lie at the heart of Feyerabend's call for a joyful epistemological anarchism?
Period19 Mar 2021
Event titlePaul Feyerabend (1924-1994) – Education for a Free Society –
Event typeConference
LocationGlasgow, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Brecht, Nietzsche, Feyerabend, Education