Mechanism of Method Employment

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How do methods become employed by a community in theory assessment?

When the classical philosophy of science finally came to terms with the fact that methods of theory assessment do in fact change through time, the question became how exactly they change. Since circa 1980, explaining the process of transitions from one employed method to the next has been one of the most challenging tasks for any theory of scientific change. A proper answer to this question helps to shed light on one of the key aspects of scientific change.

In the scientonomic context, this question was first formulated by Hakob Barseghyan in 2015. The question is currently accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by Scientonomy community. The Third Law (Sebastien-2016) is currently accepted by Scientonomy community as the best available theory on the subject. The Third Law (Sebastien-2016) states "A method becomes employed only when it is deducible from some subset of other employed methods and accepted theories of the time."


A number of philosophers of science addressed the question of method employment before the inception of scientonomy. Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, Dudley Shapere, Larry Laudan, and Ernan McMullin all suggested that our theories about the world shape our methods of theory evaluation.

Thomas Kuhn can be credited by articulating this idea first in his Structure as part of his conception of paradigm shifts.1

Dudley Shapere greatly developed the idea of beliefs affecting methods of theory evaluation in his The Character of Scientific Change, where he argued that the criteria scientists employ in theory assessment are not transcendent to science but are an integral part of it.2

Similarly, in his Science and Values, Larry Laudan argued that the discovery of previously unaccounted effects (such as placebo effect or experimenter's bias) resulted in the formulation of new methods of drug testing.3pp. 38-39

The same idea has been expressed around the same time by Ernan McMullin. In his account of the transition from the Aristotelian Medieval method to the hypothetico-deductive method in the early 18th century, McMullin shows that the employment of the hypothetico-deductivism was a result of accepting that the world is more complex than it appears in our observations.4pp. 32-34

There have been many other attempts at explaining how methods of theory evaluation come to be employed by a community (e.g. the reconstructions of Plato’s method performed by David Lindberg5pp. 37-38).

Barry Barnes, David Bloor, Bruno Latour, Steve Woolgar and other have suggested that methods of science are determined to a large degree by the underlying sociocultural factors.67

Paul Feyerabend went as far as to argue that in many cases methods are chosen in an arbitrary fashion.8


In the context of scientonomy the answer to this question has been traditionally provided by the third law. Until 2016 it was the third law as formulated by Hakob Barseghyan.9p. 54

In this formulation, it wasn't clear whether employed methods follow from all or only some of the accepted theories and employed methods of the time. This led to a logical paradox which was resolved by Zoe Sebastien in 2016. In her reformulation of the law, Sebastien made explicit that an employed method need not necessarily follow from all other employed methods and accepted theories but only from some of them.10 This made it possible for an employed method to be logically inconsistent and yet compatible with openly accepted methodological dicta.

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of this question (it includes all the instances when the question was accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by a community):
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy1 January 2016This is when the community accepted its first answer to this question, The Third Law (Barseghyan-2015), which indicates that the question is itself considered legitimate.Yes

All Theories

The following theories have attempted to answer this question:
TheoryFormulationFormulated In
The Third Law (Barseghyan-2015)A method becomes employed only when it is deducible from other employed methods and accepted theories of the time.2015
The Third Law (Sebastien-2016)A method becomes employed only when it is deducible from some subset of other employed methods and accepted theories of the time.2016
If a theory on this descriptive question is missing, please click here to add it.

Accepted Theories

The following theories have been accepted as answers to this question:
CommunityTheoryAccepted FromAccepted Until
ScientonomyThe Third Law (Barseghyan-2015)1 January 201621 January 2017
ScientonomyThe Third Law (Sebastien-2016)21 January 2017

Suggested Modifications

Here is a list of modifications concerning this topic:
ModificationCommunityDate SuggestedSummaryVerdictVerdict RationaleDate Assessed
Sciento-2016-0001Scientonomy3 September 2016Accept a new formulation of the third law to make it clear that employed methods do not have to be deducible from all accepted theories and employed methods but only from some.AcceptedThere was a community consensus that "the new formulation of the third law does bring an additional level of precision to our understanding of the mechanism of method change".c1 The community agreed that the new formulation "makes a clarification that, on its own, warrants this modification's acceptance".c2 Importantly, it was also agreed that the modification "solves the paradox of normative propositions".c321 January 2017

Current View

In Scientonomy community, the accepted theory on the subject is The Third Law (Sebastien-2016). It states: "A method becomes employed only when it is deducible from some subset of other employed methods and accepted theories of the time."

The Third Law Sebastien 2016.png

Open Questions

The following related topic(s) currently lack an accepted answer:

  • Deriving Methods from an Empty Set: Does the possibility of a method being derived from an empty set pose a problem for the current formulation of the third law? Can we conceive of a situation in which a method is derived from an empty subset? The topic has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.
  • Implementation vs. Employment of Methods: Is there a difference between implementation and employment of a method? Is the mechanism of implementation the same as the mechanism of employment? The topic has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.
  • Methodology and Methods: Can a method become employed by being the deductive consequence of an already accepted methodology? How would this affect the Methodology Can Shape Methods theorem? The topic has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.
  • Role of Sociocultural Factors in Method Employment: What is the role of sociocultural factors, such as economics or politics, in the process of method employment? The topic has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.
  • Role of Used Theories in Method Employment: Does the third law allow for methods to be deductive consequences of used theories? The topic has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.
  • Theory Displacement: Is it conceivable that, following the rejection of a method, that any theories which satisfied its requirements also would become rejected, seeing as how the reasons for belief in them no longer hold (in the eyes of the community)? The topic has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.

Related Topics

This topic is a sub-topic of Mechanism of Scientific Change. It has the following sub-topic(s):

This topic is also related to the following topic(s):


  1. ^  Kuhn, Thomas. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
  2. ^  Shapere, Dudley. (1980) The Character of Scientific Change. In Nickles (Ed.) (1980), 61-116.
  3. ^  Laudan, Larry. (1984) Science and Values. University of California Press.
  4. ^  McMullin, Ernan. (1988) The Shaping of Scientific Rationality: Construction and Constraint. In McMullin (Ed.) (1988), 1-47.
  5. ^  Lindberg, David. (2007) The Beginnings of Western Science. University Of Chicago Press.
  6. ^  Latour, Bruno and Woolgar, Steve. (1979) Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Princeton University Press.
  7. ^  Barnes, Barry; Bloor, David and Henry, John. (1996) Scientific Knowledge: A Sociological Analysis. University of Chicago Press.
  8. ^  Feyerabend, Paul. (1975) Against Method. New Left Books.
  9. ^  Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
  10. ^  Sebastien, Zoe. (2016) The Status of Normative Propositions in the Theory of Scientific Change. Scientonomy 1, 1-9. Retrieved from


Jacob MacKinnon (2.4%), Hakob Barseghyan (97.6%)