Mechanism of Norm Employment

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How do norms become employed by an epistemic agent?

As norms of any type - methods, ethical norms, aesthetic norms, etc. - can change through time, it is important to inquire as to how exactly they change. A proper answer to this question helps to shed light on one of the key aspects of the mechanism of scientific change.

In the scientonomic context, this question was first formulated by William Rawleigh in 2022. The question is currently accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by Scientonomy community. At the moment, the question has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.


One aspect of the question of the mechanism of norm employment - that of method employment has been addressed by a number of philosophers of science before the inception of scientonomy. Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, Dudley Shapere, Larry Laudan, and Ernan McMullin all suggested that our theories about the world shape our methods of theory evaluation.

Thomas Kuhn can be credited by articulating this idea first in his Structure as part of his conception of paradigm shifts.1

Dudley Shapere greatly developed the idea of beliefs affecting methods of theory evaluation in his The Character of Scientific Change, where he argued that the criteria scientists employ in theory assessment are not transcendent to science but are an integral part of it.2

Similarly, in his Science and Values, Larry Laudan argued that the discovery of previously unaccounted effects (such as placebo effect or experimenter's bias) resulted in the formulation of new methods of drug testing.3pp. 38-39

The same idea has been expressed around the same time by Ernan McMullin. In his account of the transition from the Aristotelian Medieval method to the hypothetico-deductive method in the early 18th century, McMullin shows that the employment of the hypothetico-deductivism was a result of accepting that the world is more complex than it appears in our observations.4pp. 32-34

There have been many other attempts at explaining how methods of theory evaluation come to be employed by a community (e.g. the reconstructions of Plato’s method performed by David Lindberg5pp. 37-38).

Barry Barnes, David Bloor, Bruno Latour, Steve Woolgar and other have suggested that methods of science are determined to a large degree by the underlying sociocultural factors.67

Paul Feyerabend went as far as to argue that in many cases methods are chosen in an arbitrary fashion.8


Norms only became part of the scientonomic ontology in 2017 with the acceptance of Sebastien's modification that introduced normative theories one of as types of theory. With the acceptance of Barseghyan's redrafted ontology in 2019, methods became subsumed under the category of normative theory and employment became a stance that epistemic agents could take towards norms of all types, not just methods. This should have suggested the question of the mechanism of norm employment; yet, as formulating questions is often a creative process, it wasn't until Rawleigh's 2022 paper that the question was explicitly formulated, together with a formulation of an answer to it - the law of norm employment.

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of this question (it includes all the instances when the question was accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by a community):
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy28 February 2022This is the date of the publication of the collected volume that included Rawleigh's paper, which indicates that the question is itself came to be considered legitimate.Yes

All Theories

The following theories have attempted to answer this question:
TheoryFormulationFormulated In
The Law of Norm Employment (Rawleigh-2022)A norm becomes employed only if it is derivable from a non-empty subset of other elements of the mosaic.2022
If a theory on this descriptive question is missing, please click here to add it.

Accepted Theories

According to our records, no theory on this topic has ever been accepted.

Suggested Modifications

Here is a list of modifications concerning this topic:
ModificationCommunityDate SuggestedSummaryVerdictVerdict RationaleDate Assessed
Sciento-2022-0002Scientonomy28 February 2022Accept the new law of norm employment that fixes some of the issues of the current law of method employment and makes it applicable to norms of all types.Open

Current View

There is currently no accepted answer to this question.

Related Topics

This topic is a sub-topic of Mechanism of Scientific Change.

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


  1. ^  Kuhn, Thomas. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
  2. ^  Shapere, Dudley. (1980) The Character of Scientific Change. In Nickles (Ed.) (1980), 61-116.
  3. ^  Laudan, Larry. (1984) Science and Values. University of California Press.
  4. ^  McMullin, Ernan. (1988) The Shaping of Scientific Rationality: Construction and Constraint. In McMullin (Ed.) (1988), 1-47.
  5. ^  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.
  6. ^  Latour, Bruno and Woolgar, Steve. (1979) Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Princeton University Press.
  7. ^  Barnes, Barry; Bloor, David and Henry, John. (1996) Scientific Knowledge: A Sociological Analysis. University of Chicago Press.
  8. ^  Feyerabend, Paul. (1975) Against Method. New Left Books.