Questions as Epistemic Elements (Rawleigh-2018)

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An attempt to answer the question of Status of Questions which states "Questions (topics, problems) are epistemic elements."

Questions as Epistemic Elements was formulated by William Rawleigh in 2018.1 It is currently accepted by Scientonomy community as the best available theory on the subject.


Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of Questions as Epistemic Elements (Rawleigh-2018):
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy26 September 2018The proposition became accepted as a result of the acceptance of the respective suggested modification.Yes

Suggestions To Accept

Here are all the modifications where the acceptance of this theory has been suggested:
ModificationCommunityDate SuggestedSummaryVerdictVerdict RationaleDate Assessed
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

Question Answered

Questions as Epistemic Elements (Rawleigh-2018) is an attempt to answer the following question: What is the status of questions (problems, topics) in the ontology of epistemic elements?

See Status of Questions for more details.


A study of the process of scientific change reveals many cases when a question that was considered legitimate in a certain time-period became illegitimate in another period. For example, the questions such as “what is the weight of phlogiston?” or “why does some matter gain mass as it loses phlogiston?” were accepted as legitimate topics of inquiry for the most part of the 18th century. Yet, once the phlogiston theory was rejected, these questions became illegitimate. Another examples is the question “what is the distance from the earth to the sphere of stars?” that was once considered legitimate by astronomers, but is no longer accepted.1p. 4

Similarly, there are questions which are considered legitimate these days but weren't accepted even a few centuries ago. An example of this is the question “what’s the underlying mechanics of the evolution of species?” - a perfectly legitimate topic of biological research nowadays that would have been deemed illegitimate three hundred years ago.1p. 4

These examples suggest that questions are part of the process of scientific changes. More specifically, they are part the ontology of epistemic elements.


  1. a b c  Rawleigh, William. (2018) The Status of Questions in the Ontology of Scientific Change. Scientonomy 2, 1-12. Retrieved from


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