Descriptive Theory

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What is descriptive theory? How should it be defined?

There are some propositions that attempt to describe and explain the world. It is important to provide this class of propositions with a proper scientonomic definition.

In the scientonomic context, this term was first used by Hakob Barseghyan in 2015. The term is currently accepted by Scientonomy community.

In Scientonomy, the accepted definition of the term is:

  • A set of propositions that attempts to describe something.

Scientonomic History

Acceptance Record of the Term

Here is the complete acceptance record of this term (it includes all the instances when the term was accepted as a part of a community's taxonomy):
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy1 January 2016The question became accepted with the acceptance of the rest of the TSC.Yes

All Definitions

The following definitions of descriptive theory the term have been suggested:
TheoryFormulationFormulated In
Descriptive Theory (Sebastien-2016)A set of propositions that attempts to describe something.2016
If a definition of this term is missing, please click here to add it.

Accepted Definitions

The following definitions of descriptive theory have been accepted:
CommunityTheoryFormulationAccepted FromAccepted Until
ScientonomyDescriptive Theory (Sebastien-2016)A set of propositions that attempts to describe something.15 February 2017

Suggested Modifications

Here is a list of modifications concerning the definitions of descriptive theory:
Modification Community Date Suggested Summary Date Assessed Verdict Verdict Rationale
Sciento-2016-0002 Scientonomy 3 September 2016 Accept a new taxonomy for theory, normative theory, descriptive theory to reintroduce normative propositions (such as those of ethics or methodology) to the scientific mosaic. 23 January 2017 Not Accepted Since this modification consisted of two interrelated but essentially distinct suggestions - one definitional and one ontological - it was decided by the community to divide it into two modifications so that the gist of the proposed suggestions is properly articulated. In particular, it was agreed that there are two modifications in "the heart of this single modification - one ontological, the other definitional".c1 It was also agreed that the current formulation "is exclusively definitional, and does not give the community an opportunity to appreciate (and, well, accept) the ontological changes that come along with it".c2 Consequently, it was decided to divide this modification into two modifications - one definitional and one ontological.c3
Sciento-2017-0001 Scientonomy 23 January 2017 Accept new definitions for theory, normative theory, and descriptive theory. Also, modify the definition of methodology to reflect these changes. 15 February 2017 Accepted The community agreed that this is "an important addition to theoretical scientonomy".c1 It was agreed that since "the paradox of normative propositions has been solved, a revised set of definitions was needed".c2 It was emphasized that if we're going to have any sort of conversation on the status of normative propositions in the mosaic, "then we need to start from a definition".c3

Current Definition

In Scientonomy, the accepted definition of the term is Descriptive Theory (Sebastien-2016).

Descriptive Theory (Sebastien-2016) states: "A set of propositions that attempts to describe something."

Descriptive Theory (Sebastien-2016).png

According to Sebastien's definition of the term, descriptive theories aim at describing a certain object under study, where describe is understood in the broad sense and includes explain, predict, etc. Thus, the term encompasses theories that attempt to describe a certain phenomenon, process, or state of affairs in the past, present, or future. All of the following propositions would qualify as descriptive:

  • The acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object. (A general description of a phenomenon.)
  • Paris is the capital of France. (A description of a current state of affairs.)
  • Augustus was the first emperor of the Roman Empire. (A description of a past state of affairs.)
  • Halley's comet will next appear in the night sky in the year 2062. (A description of a future event, i.e. a prediction.)

Typically, most propositions produced by both empirical and formal sciences would fall under the category of descriptive theory. Among others, this includes substantive propositions of physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, and economics, as well those of historical sciences. Excluded from this category are normative propositions, such as those of methodology, ethics, or aesthetics.



In Scientonomy, it is currently accepted that "There is such a thing as a descriptive theory."


In Scientonomy, there are currently no accepted subtypes of Descriptive Theory.


In Scientonomy, the following supertype of Descriptive Theory is currently accepted:


In Scientonomy, there are currently no accepted associations of Descriptive Theory.


In Scientonomy, no classes are currently accepted as disjoint with Descriptive Theory.

Epistemic Stances Towards Descriptive Theories

In Scientonomy, the accepted answers to the question can be summarized as follows:

If a question concerning the ontology of a descriptive theory is missing, please add it here.


Mechanism of Scientific Inertia for Descriptive Theories

The question has no accepted answer.

Mechanism of Descriptive Theory Rejection

The question has no accepted answer.

Necessary Descriptive Theories

The question has no accepted answer.

If a question concerning the dynamics of a descriptive theory is missing, please add it here.

Related Topics

This term is also related to the following topic(s):