Compatibility Criteria (Barseghyan-2015)

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This is a definition of Compatibility Criteria that states "Criteria for determining whether two theories are compatible or incompatible."

Compatibility criteria p 10.jpg

This definition of Compatibility Criteria was formulated by Hakob Barseghyan in 2015.1

Scientonomic History

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of this definition:
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy1 January 2016The definition became de facto accepted by the community at that time together with the whole theory of scientific change.No11 October 2020The definition became rejected as a result of the acceptance of the respective suggested modification.

Suggestions To Reject

These are all the modifications where the rejection of this definition has been suggested:

Modification Community Date Suggested Summary Verdict Verdict Rationale Date Assessed
Sciento-2018-0017 Scientonomy 28 December 2018 Accept the new definition of compatibility criteria as criteria for determining whether two elements are compatible or incompatible. Accepted The discussions concerning this modification took place mostly online, but primarily outside of this encyclopedia. There is a communal agreement that the modification is to be accepted as it fixes "an obvious drawback of [Barseghyan's] original definition".c1 Since "compatibility is a stance that can be taken towards methods, theories, and questions alike"c2 it is agreed that we need a definition that is applicable to all epistemic elements, not merely theories. It was also noted that the new definition has the advantage of being "neutral to the the addition of new epistemic elements to the scientonomic ontology".c3 11 October 2020

Question Answered

Compatibility Criteria (Barseghyan-2015) is an attempt to definition the following question: What is compatibility criteria? How should it be defined?

See Compatibility Criteria for more details.


Like demarcation and acceptance criteria, compatibility criteria can be part of a community's employed method. The community employs these criteria to determine whether two theories are mutually compatible or incompatible, i.e. whether they can be simultaneously part of the community's mosaic. Different communities can have different compatibility criteria. While some communities may opt to employ the logical law of noncontradiction as their criterion of compatibility, other communities may be more tolerant towards logical inconsistencies. According to Barseghyan, the fact that these days scientists "often simultaneously accept theories which strictly speaking logically contradict each other is a good indication that the actual criteria of compatibility employed by the scientific community might be quite different from the classical logical law of noncontradiction".1p. 11 For example, this is apparent in the case of general relativity vs. quantum physics where both theories are accepted as the best available descriptions of their respective domains (i.e. they are considered compatible), but are known to be in conflict when applied simultaneously to such objects as black holes.

The gist of this definition can be illustrated by the following examples.

Our Compatibility Criteria have Changed over Time

Barseghyan presents the following hypothetical-historical example when compatibility criteria are introduced in Barseghyan (2015).

It can be argued that our contemporary criteria of compatibility have not always been employed. Consider the case of the reconciliation of the Aristotelian natural philosophy and metaphysics with Catholic theology. As soon as most works of Aristotle and its Muslim commentators were translated into Latin (circa 1200), it became obvious that some propositions of Aristotle’s original system were inconsistent with several dogmas of the then-accepted Catholic theology. Take, for instance, the Aristotelian conceptions of determinism, the eternity of the cosmos, and the mortality of the individual soul. Evidently, these conceptions were in direct conflict with the accepted Catholic doctrines of God’s omnipotence and free will, of creation, and of the immortality of the individual human soul.2p. 228–253. Moreover, some of the passages of Scripture, when taken literally, appeared to be in conflict with the propositions of the Aristotelian natural philosophy. In particular, Scripture seemed to imply that the Earth is flat (e.g. Daniel 4:10-11; Mathew 4:8; Revelation 7:1), which was in conflict with the Aristotelian view that the Earth is spherical. It is no surprise, therefore, that many of the propositions of the Aristotelian natural philosophy were condemned on several occasions during the 13th century.2p.226-249. To resolve the conflict, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas and others modified both the Aristotelian natural philosophy and the biblical descriptions of natural phenomena to make them consistent with each other. On the one hand, they stipulated that the laws of the Aristotelian natural philosophy describe the natural course of events only insofar as they do not limit God’s omnipotence, for God can violate any laws if he so desires. Similarly, they modified Aristotle’s determinism by adding that the future of the cosmos is determined by its present only insofar as it is not affected by free will or divine miracles. Similar modifications were introduced to many other Aristotelian propositions. On the other hand, it was also made clear that biblical descriptions of cosmological and physical phenomena are not to be taken literally, for Scripture often employs a simple language in order to be accessible to common folk. Thus, where possible, literal interpretations of Scripture were supposed to be replaced by interpretations based on the Aristotelian natural philosophy.3p.220-224, 245 Importantly, it is only after this reconciliation that the modified Aristotelian-medieval natural philosophy became accepted by the community.2p.250-1 This and similar examples seem to be suggesting that the compatibility criteria employed by the medieval scientific community were quite different from those employed nowadays. While apparently we are inconsistency-tolerant (at least when dealing with theories in empirical science), the medieval scientific community was inconsistency-intolerant in the sense that they wouldn’t tolerate any open inconsistencies in the mosaic.1p.160-161


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Questions About This Definition

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  1. a b c  Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
  2. a b c  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.
  3. ^  Grant, Edward. (2004) Science and Religion. 400 BC – AD 1550. Johns Hopkins University Press.