Compatibility Criteria (Fraser-Sarwar-2018)

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

Compatibility Criteria (Fraser-Sarwar-2018).png

This definition of Compatibility Criteria was formulated by Patrick Fraser and Ameer Sarwar in 2018.1 It is currently accepted by Scientonomy community as the best available definition of the term.

Scientonomic History

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of this definition:
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy11 October 2020The definition became accepted as a result of the acceptance of the respective suggested modification.Yes

Suggestions To Accept

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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 (Fraser-Sarwar-2018) is an attempt to answer 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 an epistemic agent's employed method. An epistemic agent employs these criteria to determine whether two elements (e.g. methods, theories, questions) are mutually compatible or incompatible, i.e. whether they can be simultaneously part of the agent's mosaic. In principle, these criteria can be employed to determine the compatibility of elements present in the mosaic, as well as those outside of it (e.g. scientists often think about whether a proposed theory is compatible with the theories actually accepted at the time). Fraser and Sarwar point out that Barseghyan's original definition of the term "excludes a simple point that is assumed elsewhere in scientonomy: elements other than theories (i.e. methods and questions) may be compatible or incompatible with other elements (which, again, need not be theories)".1p. 72 To fix this omission, Fraser and Sarwar "suggest that the word ‘theories’ be changed to ‘elements’ to account for the fact that the compatibility criteria apply to theories, methods, and questions alike".1p. 72

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".2p. 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.


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  1. ^  Fraser, Patrick and Sarwar, Ameer. (2018) A Compatibility Law and the Classification of Theory Change. Scientonomy 2, 67-82. Retrieved from