Modification talk:Sciento-2016-0002

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Commenting on this modification is closed; the modification is not accepted. It was superseded by Sciento-2017-0001 and Sciento-2017-0002.


Hakob Barseghyan

26 months ago
Score 1

Since the new formulation of the third law solves the paradox of normative propositions, there is no reason to keep them out of the mosaic. Thus, theory should be redefined and two new concepts - normative theory and descriptive theory - should be introduced.

Verdict: accept.

Nicholas Overgaard

26 months ago
Score 1
Sebastien’s aim here – to introduce normative propositions into the scientific mosaic – is an important step towards broadening the scope of our scientonomic analyses. However, I am not convinced that the new taxonomy – specifically the definition of “normative theory” – is sufficiently different from some of our current taxonomy to warrant its introduction to our discipline. A descriptive theory refers to some sort of object, idea, concept, etc., i.e. the “something” it is attempting to describe – this much makes sense. But the definition of a normative theory suggests that it, too, must refer to some kind of object which it is attempting to prescribe (rather than describe). What object is a normative theory trying to prescribe? How does a theory even prescribe an object? It doesn't; it prescribes what actions can be taken on an object, or it prescribes what is and is not permissible. When situated in opposition to the formulation of the new definition of “descriptive theory”, the definition of “normative theory” is confusing and misleading. A theory can, hypothetically, make a prescription about how we should approach or how we should study certain objects. But we already have a name for the means by which we should study or evaluate those “somethings” – a method – and, the theories influencing that method is just a description of the Third Law, but in different terms. The line between theory and method becomes too blurred with these new definitions, a step with such drastic consequences that I would need far more evidence and argumentation to accept the modification. While I am convinced that normative propositions somehow do actually have an influence in the mechanism of scientific change, for which we need to account in our discipline, I am not convinced that normative propositions fall so cleanly under the category of “theory”. For the above reasons, I do not think that we should accept this modification.

Hakob Barseghyan

26 months ago
Score 0

If my understanding is correct, Overgaard has no issue with bringing normative propositions into the mosaic. But he has an objection against the idea that normative theories can prescribe a certain object. I agree that this part is somewhat clumsy. Note that this phrase is only present in the definition of Theory Acceptance. The suggested definition of Normative Theory seems to be fine: there seems to be nothing wrong in saying that a normative theory prescribes something. Moral norms prescribe something, i.e. some modes of behaviour. Similarly, methodologies prescribe something - specific rules for theory assessment, etc. Thus, the problem is with the definition of Theory Acceptance, not with the definition of Normative Theory which seems to be perfectly fine for now.

If we agree on this, then here is what I suggest. How about we divide this modification into two separate modifications:

  1. Accept that normative theories (e.g methodologies) can be part of a mosaic; this modification will include all the suggested definitions except for Theory Acceptance, which seems to be problematic.
  2. Accept Sebastien's definition of Theory Acceptance.

That way we would be able to accept the former, without accepting the latter.

The main rationale is this. We seem to agree that a mosaic can contain some normative theories (e.g. methodologies). In fact, this encyclopedia itself is based on that tacit assumption; we even have a category for normative theories, where we include those normative propositions that outline the scope of scientonomy. In other words, we need to openly accept what we actually practice.

By dividing this modification into two separate modifications, we will be able to salvage the gist of the modification - inclusion of normative theories into the mosaic - and leave the question of specific definition Theory Acceptance open.

What do you say?

Zoe Sebastien

24 months ago
Score 1

Nicholas raises a good point about the confusion that might arise if the term "object" is used to refer to that which a normative theory prescribes. In ordinary language an "object" typically refers to a tangible substance and I can see how someone unfamiliar with the TSC and its terminology might find this phrasing somewhat awkward or confusing.

My usage of the term "object", however, is based on the implicit definition of "object" given in the TSC's meta-theoretical discussion of "theory-level" and "object-level". In the TSC, a theory is what refers to an object and an "object" is of a theory (i.e. that to which a theory refers). If we ensure that we are using this technical understanding of the term "object", we will not fall into any confusion and we will not suppose the definition of Theory Acceptance to make any strange ontological claims or commitments. I think that Nicholas raises a really good point and, to ensure that there is no confusion, I recommend making the TSC's implicit definition of "object" explicit. In this way, the modification can be accepted without anyone thinking there are any negative consequences.

Hakob makes a good point about the need to accept methodologies into the scientific mosaic in order to make explicit what we actually practice. Unfortunately, however, the approach he outlines will not work since the moment you accept that propositions can be descriptive or normative, the definition of Theory Acceptance must adjust accordingly. Fortunately, I believe that if the definition of "object" as implied by the TSC is made explicit, the specific definition of Theory Acceptance will not cause any confusion and no adjustments will be necessary.

Hakob Barseghyan

24 months ago
Score 0

I agree with Zoe. There are two important points here:

1. Concerning my earlier suggestion to split this modification into two, I withdraw it, as I believe Zoe is correct here: it is impossible to accept that theories can be normative or descriptive while leaving the definition of Theory Acceptance intact. That won't do. If we believe that some theories are normative, which we seem to agree on, then Theory Acceptance should also be redefined accordingly to cover not only best descriptions, but also best prescriptions.

2. As for the meaning of object, Zoe has made an important point that it shouldn't be understood in the ordinary sense, but rather in the sense that is implicit in our professional discourse. When we speak of a theory's object, we are referring to the classes of phenomena (entities, relations, actions, states of affairs, etc.) that the theory attempts to describe (if it's descriptive) or prescribe (if it's normative). Zoe is correct in noting that this specific understanding of object is implicit in The Laws of Scientific Change (see especially pp. 24, 70, 103, 252).

Thus, my verdict is: accept.

Nicholas Overgaard

24 months ago
Score 1

So it seems to me like there are two modifications are the heart of this single modification - one ontological, the other definitional. This is similar to Hakob's original suggestion to split the mosaic into two separate mosaics (but also different in important ways, which I'll explain).

A) The first modification would be an ontological one. It would be to accept that normative propositions are part of the scientific mosaic. I think many of us readily agree that normative propositions play some role in the mechanism of scientific change, so surely they should be accounted for in our discipline.

B) The second modification would be definitional: if we accept that normative propositions play some part in scientonomy, then we should have some idea what those normative propositions are, hence the proposed taxonomy.

As is, the currently proposed modification is exclusively definitional, and does not give the community an opportunity to appreciate (and, well, accept) the ontological changes that come along with it. If, however, we split the modification in two, then it's possible to appreciate that normative theories are being integrated into the scope of scientonomy, and then also accept or not accept some proposed definition for normative theory (and whatever other associated redefinitions are necessary).

So my suggestion: split this suggested modification into two suggested modifications, and let us comment on them separately.

Hakob Barseghyan

24 months ago
Score 0

Now I see Nick's point. Indeed, separating this modification into two makes sense: ontological modifications should not be introduced through mere definitions. I think this is a point that we haven't properly appreciated until now and I am clearly at fault here.

As you recall, the current ontology of theories and methods was introduced in the LSC through the definition of scientific mosaic. This is clearly an oversight on my part. It is as though physicists were to introduce the existence of quarks, leptons, and bosons through the definition of physical reality. Surely, propositions stating the existence of a certain entity - physical, biological, or scientonomic - are all descriptive propositions and not definitions. Thus, our current belief that theories and methods are the two types of elements that undergo scientific change is itself a descriptive proposition that should be openly formulated and properly recorded; it is not a definitional matter. Thus far, we have not formulated this explicitly, but we should. I have fixed the respective pages of the encyclopedia to reflect this. See Ontology of Scientific Change for details.

In short, I agree with Nick's suggestion that the descriptive question of ontological elements of scientific change needs to be separated from the definitional question of how theory, descriptive theory, and normative theory are to be defined. By separating these two questions, we will better capture the gist of Zoe's modification and will allow the community to properly appreciate the whole scope of the suggested modification. If we proceed in this direction, the current modification will be superseded by two modifications: one regarding Zoe's new ontology of scientific change and the other regarding Zoe's new definitions of our key concepts.

Zoe Sebastien

24 months ago
Score 0
I see the distinction being made and if the community would feel more comfortable having the modification separated into two, then I see no reason not to do so. Clearly articulating the ontology and taxonomy of the TSC is very important for future research and so I support these suggestions.

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