Rawleigh (2018)

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Rawleigh, William. (2018) The Status of Questions in the Ontology of Scientific Change. Scientonomy 2, 1-12. Retrieved from https://scientojournal.com/index.php/scientonomy/article/view/29651.

Title The Status of Questions in the Ontology of Scientific Change
Resource Type journal article
Author(s) William Rawleigh
Year 2018
URL https://scientojournal.com/index.php/scientonomy/article/view/29651
Journal Scientonomy
Volume 2
Pages 1-12

Abstract

The currently accepted scientonomic ontology includes two classes of epistemic elements – theories and methods. However, the ontology underlying the Encyclopedia of Scientonomy includes questions/topics as a basic element of its semantic structure. Ideally there should be no discrepancy between the accepted ontology of theoretical scientonomy and that of the Encyclopedia. I argue that questions constitute a distinct class of epistemic elements as they are not reducible to other elements that undergo scientific change – theories or methods. I discuss and reject two attempts at reducing questions to either descriptive or normative theories. According to the descriptive-epistemic account, scientific questions can be logically reduced to descriptive propositions, while according to the normative-epistemic account, they can be reduced to normative propositions. I show that these interpretations are incapable of capturing the propositional content expressed by questions; any possible reduction is carried at the expense of losing the essential characteristic of questions. Further, I find that the attempts to reduce questions to theories introduce an infinite regress, where a theory is an attempt to answer a question, which is itself a theory which answers another question, ad infintum. Instead, I propose to incorporate the question-answer semantic structure from erotetic logic in which questions constitute a distinct class of elements irreducible to propositions. An acceptance of questions into scientonomic ontology as a separate class of epistemic elements suggests a new avenue of research into the mechanism of question acceptance and rejection, i.e. how epistemic communities come to accept certain questions as legitimate and others as illegitimate.

Theories

Here are all the theories formulated in Rawleigh (2018):
TheoryTypeFormulationFormulated In
Question (Rawleigh-2018)DefinitionA topic of inquiry.2018
Question Acceptance (Rawleigh-2018)DefinitionA question is said to be accepted if it is taken as a legitimate topic of inquiry.2018
Epistemic Stances Towards Questions - Acceptance (Rawleigh-2018)DescriptiveThe epistemic stance that can be taken by an epistemic agent towards a question is question acceptance.2018
Questions as Epistemic Elements (Rawleigh-2018)DescriptiveQuestions (topics, problems) are epistemic elements.2018
Epistemic Elements - Theories Methods and Questions (Rawleigh-2018)DescriptiveThe three classes of elements that can undergo scientific change are theories, methods, and questions.2018

Suggested Modifications

Here are all the modifications suggested in Rawleigh (2018):

  • Sciento-2018-0001: Accept the definition of question as a topic of inquiry. The modification was suggested to Scientonomy community by William Rawleigh on 12 May 2018.1 The modification was accepted on 26 September 2018. The consensus was reached as a result of in-person consultations with scientonomists mostly outside of the discussion page of this modification. It was agreed that as the only currently published definition of the term, Rawleigh's definition is to be accepted as the best available. An alternative definition of question as "a topic of scientific inquiry"c1 was presented as a potentially pursuit-worthy direction. However, it was eventually agreed that including "scientificity" into the definition of question conflates "the question of how a question should be defined" with "the question of what stances can be taken towards questions".c2 It does not distinguish "the propositional content of the element itself" and "its historical fate", for "scientificity or lack thereof doesn't change the propositional content of the question".c3
  • Sciento-2018-0002: Accept the ontology of epistemic elements with theories, methods, and questions as distinct epistemic elements. The modification was suggested to Scientonomy community by William Rawleigh on 12 May 2018.1 The modification was accepted on 26 September 2018. Following 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.c3
  • Sciento-2018-0003: Accept that the epistemic stance that can be taken by an epistemic agent towards a question is question acceptance (the opposite is unacceptance), where question acceptance is defined as "a question is said to be accepted if it is taken as a legitimate topic of inquiry". The modification was suggested to Scientonomy community by William Rawleigh on 12 May 2018.1 The modification was accepted on 1 November 2018. It was noted that "the whole point of adding questions to the ontology of epistemic elements was that we can legitimately speak of a question being accepted by a certain agent at a certain time".c1 The discussion also revealed a need to distinguish distinguish "a situation where no consensus exists from a situation where a consensus exists that a question is illegitimate".c2 In other words, "just as question acceptance, theory acceptance too seems to allow for three values: (clearly) accepted; (clearly) unaccepted; no consensus".c3 Thus, a new question was suggested concerning the binary character of epistemic stances: "are all epistemic stances binary, or do they allow for more than two values?"c4
  • Sciento-2018-0004: Accept the questions of the mechanism question acceptance and indicators of question acceptance as legitimate topics of scientonomic inquiry. The modification was suggested to Scientonomy community by William Rawleigh on 12 May 2018.1 The modification was accepted on 1 November 2018. As the modification concerned exclusively questions, it was set to be accepted automatically once its "parent" modifications became accepted. Thus, the questions of the mechanism of question acceptance and indicators of question acceptance became automatically accepted once the presupposed modifications were accepted.

References

  1. a b c d  Rawleigh, William. (2018) The Status of Questions in the Ontology of Scientific Change. Scientonomy 2, 1-12. Retrieved from https://scientojournal.com/index.php/scientonomy/article/view/29651.

Contributors

Hakob Barseghyan (100.0%)