Epistemic Elements

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What are the fundamental epistemic elements that undergo scientific change?

In principle, the process of scientific change can concern many different types of entities. One important question is to establish the most fundamental units that undergo scientific change. Over the years, it has been argued that the fundamental units of scientific change include theories (Popper), paradigms (Kuhn), research programmes (Lakatos), research traditions (early Laudan), methods (Kuhn, Shapere, later Laudan), and values (Kuhn, later Laudan). This is not surprising, as any theory of scientific change needs to establish a basic ontology 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. Epistemic Elements - Theories Methods and Questions (Rawleigh-2018) is currently accepted by Scientonomy community as the best available theory on the subject. Epistemic Elements - Theories Methods and Questions (Rawleigh-2018) states "The three classes of elements that can undergo scientific change are theories, methods, and questions."

Prehistory

Karl Popper’s theory of scientific change took theories to be the units of scientific change. According to Popper, theories become accepted in accordance to the quantity of empirical content they present, and based on how many confirmed novel predictions they make.1

Thomas Kuhn's theory of scientific change identified the ontological units of scientific change as frameworks which he referred to as paradigms, which can be defined as a characteristic set of beliefs and preconceptions held by a scientific community including instrumental, theoretical, and metaphysical commitments all together.23pp. 293-319 Kuhn himself confessed that he had confusingly used the term in several different senses.3pp. 293-294 In an attempt to clarify matters he sought to replace his broadest definition of the paradigm, given above, with the concept of disciplinary matrices, defined as those shared elements that account for the relatively unproblematic professional communication and relative unanimity of professional judgment within a scientific community.3p. 297 For Kuhn, then, a theory of scientific change ought to deal with disciplinary matrices and their changes over time.

In Imre Lakatos’ theory of scientific change, the ontological elements were individual scientific theories and his so-called scientific research programmes4 which were reducible to distinct families of scientific theories. For Lakatos, a scientific research programme consisted of all theories which shared a common hard core of empirical content and a peripheral protective belt of potentially distinct empirical content such that a small change in the protective belt would not impact the ontology of the theory. The hard core of empirical content constituted that which links together all theories in the research programme as subscribing to the same physical ontology. Within this framework, the units of scientific change are piecemeal changes in the peripheral elements of research programmes, and the rejection of these programmes themselves.

Larry Laudan also proposed a theory of scientific change, namely his reticulated model5l, wherein there are scientific theories, scientific methods, and scientific values, all interdependent. In this model, the epistemic elements are theories, methods, and values, and this model posits that the values of the community are reflected in the methods, and the methods determine which theories become accepted. However, he also notes that the accepted theories influence which methods the community will employ, and can equally change the values of the community. In this respect, the reticulated model is a fully dynamic, covariant theory of scientific change wherein all epistemic elements influence one another. This was notably one of the first attempts at a theory of scientific change that included a dynamic method and acknowledged that such a dynamic method could itself be influenced by the theories that become accepted under it.

History

Initially, the ontology of scientific change was posited in the Metatheory of the LSC through the definition of scientific mosaic as a set of all accepted theories and employed methods.6p. 5 Towards the end of 2016, it gradually became clear that the ontology of a field cannot and should not be postulated via definitions. What constitutes the elements of a certain ontology must be established by empirical research and, thus, is not a matter of definitions. In other words, the question of what constitutes the ontology of a certain field is a descriptive question, not definitional. Indeed, what sort of elements change during the process of scientific change is not something that should be decided by a definition, but should be formulated as a descriptive theory that says "Such-and-such elements undergo scientific change".

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 2016The question was tacitly accepted even before its explicit formulation in 2017. Thus, it has the same acceptance date as the rest of the original TSC.Yes

All Theories

The following theories have attempted to answer this question:
TheoryFormulationFormulated In
Epistemic Elements - Theories and Methods (Barseghyan-2015)The two classes of elements that can undergo scientific change are accepted theories (as a set of propositions that attempts to describe something) and employed methods (as a set of criteria for theory evaluation).2015
Epistemic Elements - Theories and Methods (Sebastien-2017)The two classes of elements that can undergo scientific change are accepted theories - both descriptive and normative - and employed methods.2017
Epistemic Elements - Theories Methods and Questions (Rawleigh-2018)The three classes of elements that can undergo scientific change are theories, methods, and questions.2018
Epistemic Elements - Questions and Theories (Barseghyan-2018)The two basic classes of elements that can undergo scientific change are questions and theories, where each theory is an attempt to answer a certain question, and method is a subtype of normative theory.2018
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
ScientonomyEpistemic Elements - Theories and Methods (Barseghyan-2015)1 January 201615 February 2017
ScientonomyEpistemic Elements - Theories and Methods (Sebastien-2017)15 February 201726 September 2018
ScientonomyEpistemic Elements - Theories Methods and Questions (Rawleigh-2018)26 September 2018

Suggested Modifications

Here is a list of modifications concerning this topic:
ModificationCommunityDate SuggestedSummaryVerdictVerdict RationaleDate Assessed
Sciento-2017-0002Scientonomy23 January 2017Accept a new ontology of scientific change where the two fundamental elements are theories - both descriptive and normative - and methods.AcceptedThe community has agreed that after the solution of the paradox of normative propositions, there are no obstacles for including normative propositions into the ontology of scientific change.c1 c2 c3 It was also agreed that including normative propositions into the ontology of scientific change "would allow us to grasp the role that methodological and ethical rules play in science".c415 February 2017
Sciento-2018-0002Scientonomy12 May 2018Accept the ontology of epistemic elements with theories, methods, and questions as distinct epistemic elements.AcceptedFollowing several focused discussions - both in-person and on the discussion page of this modification - it was finally decided that the modification is to be accepted. Three important clarifications were made. First, it was noted that Rawleigh only shows that questions cannot be reduced either to methods or to theories, but it is still conceivable "that questions may be functions of both theories and methods simultaneously".c1 Second, it was decided that accepting the modification is still warranted, since currently we don't have any idea how questions could be reduced to a conjunction of theories and methods.c2 Third, it was decided that the question of the Status of Questions is to be left open. Scientonomists are actively encouraged to pursue the question of possibility of reducing questions to a conjunction of theories and methods.c326 September 2018
Sciento-2018-0006Scientonomy8 October 2018Accept the new ontology of epistemic elements with, theories and questions are the two basic epistemic elements where and each theory is an attempt to answer a certain question, theories can be of three types – descriptive, normative, or definitions, and methods are a subtype of normative theory.Open

Current View

In Scientonomy community, the accepted theory on the subject is Epistemic Elements - Theories Methods and Questions (Rawleigh-2018). It states: "The three classes of elements that can undergo scientific change are theories, methods, and questions."

Ontology of Epistemic Elements (Rawleigh-2018).png

This formulation expands the ontology proposed by Sebastien by introducing questions as a separate epistemic element not reducible to either theories or methods. Thus, theories, methods, and questions are the three basic elements that undergo scientific change. Read More

Open Questions

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

Related Topics

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

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

References

  1. ^  Popper, Karl. (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Routledge.
  2. ^  Kuhn, Thomas. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
  3. a b c  Kuhn, Thomas. (1977) The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change. University of Chicago Press.
  4. ^  Lakatos, Imre. (1970) Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes. In Lakatos (1978a), 8-93.
  5. ^  Laudan, Larry. (1984) Science and Values. University of California Press.
  6. ^  Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.

Contributors

Paul Patton (25.7%), Patrick Fraser (35.7%), Hakob Barseghyan (38.6%)