Mechanism of Method Employment
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.
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.3
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.4
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.
|Community||Accepted From||Acceptance Indicators||Still Accepted||Accepted Until||Rejection Indicators|
|Scientonomy||1 January 2016||This 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|
|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|
|The Law of Method Employment (Rawleigh-2022)||A method becomes employed only if it is derivable from a non-empty subset of other elements of the mosaic.||2022|
|Community||Theory||Accepted From||Accepted Until|
|Scientonomy||The Third Law (Barseghyan-2015)||1 January 2016||21 January 2017|
|Scientonomy||The Third Law (Sebastien-2016)||21 January 2017|
|Modification||Community||Date Suggested||Summary||Verdict||Verdict Rationale||Date Assessed|
|Sciento-2016-0001||Scientonomy||3 September 2016||Accept 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.||Accepted||There 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".c3||21 January 2017|
|Sciento-2022-0002||Scientonomy||28 February 2022||Accept the new law of norm employment that fixes some of the issues of the current law of method employment and makes it applicable to norms of all types.||Open|
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 initial formulation of the law, proposed by Barseghyan in The Laws of Scientific Change, stated that a method becomes employed only when it is deducible from other employed methods and accepted theories of the time.p.132 In that 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 this reformulation attempts to solve.Sebastien (2016)
This reformulation of the law makes explicit that an employed method need not necessarily follow from all other employed methods and accepted theories but only from some of them. This made it possible for an employed method to be logically inconsistent and yet compatible with openly accepted methodological dicta.
In all other respects, this formulation preserves the gist of Barseghyan's original formulation. According to the third law, a method becomes employed when:
- it strictly follows from some subset of other employed methods and accepted theories, or
- it implements some abstract requirements of other employed methods.
This restates Barseghyan's original suggestion that accepted theories shape the set of implicit criteria employed in theory assessment. When a new theory is accepted, this often leads to the employment of an abstract requirement to take that new theory into account when testing relevant contender theories. This abstract requirement is then specified by a new employed method.
The evolution of the drug trial methods is an example of the third law in action. For example, the discovery of the placebo effect in drug testing demonstrates that fake treatment can cause improvement in patient symptoms. As a result of its discovery the abstract requirement of “when assessing a drug’s efficacy, the possible placebo effect must be taken into account” was generated. This abstract requirement is, by definition, an accepted theory which stipulates that, if ignored, substantial doubt would be cast on any trial. As a result of this new theory, the Single-Blind Trial method was devised. The currently employed method in drug testing is the Double-Blind Trial, a method which specifies all of the abstract requirements of its predecessors. It is an apt illustration of how new methods are generated through the acceptance of new theories, as well as how new methods employ the abstract requirements of their predecessors.pp. 132-152
In Barseghyan’s explication of the Aristotelian-Medieval method, he illustrates how Aristotelian natural philosophy impacted the method of the time. Most notable is the acceptance of teleology – a theory which states that every thing has a nature it seeks to fulfill (e.g. an acorn’s nature is to become an oak tree). It stood to reason that the nature of a thing can only be intuitively grasped by an experienced person. This fundamental belief generated a method which specifies these requirements known as the Aristotelian-Medieval method, and is an illustration of how employed methods are deductive consequences of the accepted theories of the time.
The third law has also proven useful in explicating such requirements as Confirmed Novel Predictions (CNP). According to the hypothetico-deductive method, a theory which challenges our accepted ontology must provide CNP in order to become accepted. However, the history of CNP has been a point of confusion for some time. By the Third Law, one can show that the requirement of CNP has not always been expected of new theories. When Newton published his Principia, CNP were not a requirement of his professed method, yet they were still provided. On the other hand, Clark’s law of diminishing returns had no such predictions. This is because Newton’s proposal of unobservable entities, such as gravity and absolute space, challenged the accepted ontology of the time, while Clark’s simply accounted for the data already available. Thus, in utilizing the Third Law, one can discover both when certain criteria become an implicit rule and under what conditions they are necessary. Read More
This topic is a sub-topic of Mechanism of Scientific Change.
It has the following sub-topic(s):
- Deducibility in Method Employment
- Deriving Methods from an Empty Set
- Implementation vs. Employment of Methods
- Methodology and Methods
- Role of Used Theories in Method Employment
- Synchronism vs. Asynchronism of Method Employment
- The Paradox of Normative Propositions
This topic is also related to the following topic(s):
- Kuhn, Thomas. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
- Shapere, Dudley. (1980) The Character of Scientific Change. In Nickles (Ed.) (1980), 61-116.
- Laudan, Larry. (1984) Science and Values. University of California Press.
- McMullin, Ernan. (1988) The Shaping of Scientific Rationality: Construction and Constraint. In McMullin (Ed.) (1988), 1-47.
- Lindberg, David. (2007) The Beginnings of Western Science. The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450, Second Edition. University Of Chicago Press.
- Latour, Bruno and Woolgar, Steve. (1979) Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Princeton University Press.
- Barnes, Barry; Bloor, David and Henry, John. (1996) Scientific Knowledge: A Sociological Analysis. University of Chicago Press.
- Feyerabend, Paul. (1975) Against Method. New Left Books.
- Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
- Sebastien, Zoe. (2016) The Status of Normative Propositions in the Theory of Scientific Change. Scientonomy 1, 1-9. Retrieved from https://www.scientojournal.com/index.php/scientonomy/article/view/26947.