Scope of Scientonomy - Descriptive (Barseghyan-2015)
This is an answer to the question Scope of Scientonomy - Descriptive and Normative that states "Scientonomy is a descriptive discipline whose main task is to explain the process of changes in the scientific mosaic. It is distinct from normative methodology, whose task is to evaluate and prescribe methods. The findings of scientonomy may be used in such normative evaluations, but scientonomy itself should not be expected to perform any normative functions."
Discussions of scientific change have traditionally conflated normative and descriptive concerns. In the nineteenth century, William Whewell wrote that "The Philosophy of Science...[is an] insight into the essence and conditions of all real knowledge, and an exposition of the best methods for the discovery of new truths". 2 Regarding the question of whether his theory should be taken as a descriptive or prescriptive account of scientific change, Thomas Kuhn wrote that it "should be read in both ways at once". 3 Belief in an unchanging true method of science contributed to this conflation, since the problem of identifying this method was seen as both a descriptive and a normative question. 1
By the 1980's most authors agreed that the methods of science had changed over time, and that a theory of scientific change needed to account for both theory change and method change.456 This recognition made it clear that the question of a descriptive account of science's changing methods is a different one from the question of what method science should use. Barseghyan argued that, as a science, scientonomy can deal only with descriptive questions concerning the history and theory of scientific change, leaving normative methodology as a separate field of inquiry. 1
|1 January 2016
|The theory was introduced by Barseghyan in The Laws of Scientific Change pp. 12-20 and became de facto accepted by the community at that time together with the whole theory of scientific change.
Scope of Scientonomy - Descriptive (Barseghyan-2015) is an attempt to answer the following question: Ought a scientonomic theory be descriptive or normative?
See Scope of Scientonomy - Descriptive and Normative for more details.
There are at least three sorts of questions that we might ask about the process of scientific change; Historical questions having to do with what theories and methods were accepted by a particular community at a particular point in time, theoretical questions about the mechanisms of scientific change, and methodological questions about how scientific change ought to happen and what theories and methods ought to be accepted. The first two questions are descriptive in nature, and the third is normative. 1
As the "science of science" scientonomy seeks a purely descriptive account of processes of change in the scientific mosaic and therefore encompasses only historical and theoretical questions. Keeping descriptive scientific questions distinct from questions of normative methodology avoids numerous pitfalls. For example, those who conflate the two sometimes argue that because some method is known to have flaws of logical consistency or soundness, it cannot possibly have been the one that was, in fact, used by scientists. However, there is a great deal historical evidence that scientists actually have used logically flawed methods. Inductive reasoning is a ubiquitous part of science, despite its well known flaws.71 The intrusion of normative concerns could also undermine scientonomy's aspirations to scientific status. If any laws of scientific change discovered were accorded normative force they would become tautological truths incapable being called into question by empirical inquiry.
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Questions About This Theory
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- Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
- Whewell, William. (1967) The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded upon their History. Volume 1. Johnson Reprint Corp..
- Kuhn, Thomas. (1970) Reflections on My Critics. In Lakatos and Musgrave (Eds.) (1970), 231-278.
- 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.
- Vickers, John. (2014) The Problem of Induction. In Zalta (Ed.) (2016). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/.