Methodology and Methods
Can a method become employed by being the deductive consequence of an already accepted methodology? How would this affect the Methodology Can Shape Methods theorem?
A methodology is a set of explicitly formulated rules of theory assessment, and is a kind of theory, whereas a method is a set of requirements actually employed in theory assessment. Methods are implicit, and need not always correspond to the accepted methodology. The Third Law, the Law of Method Employment, would seem to imply that methods can be deduced from methodologies. However, the Methodology Can Shape Method theorem states that this can only happen if the requirements of the method implement abstract requirements of some other employed method, a seeming problem for the Third Law.
In Scientonomy, the accepted answer to the question is:
- A method becomes employed only when it is deducible from some subset of other employed methods and accepted theories of the time.
As noted in Barseghyan’s Laws of Scientific Change, the distinction between methodology and method has been largely unrecognized in the course of the philosophy of science, and the confusion has been exacerbated by a general lack of a normative-descriptive distinction in theories of scientific change.1
The distinction between methodology and methods might be traced first to Popper’s views on falsificationism. Popper acknowledged that while falsificationism may be an effective criterion of demarcation, and a methodological goal for scientists, they rarely will actually reject a theory in the face of a falsifying instance.2 Nonetheless, static method theorists like Popper or Lakatos typically suggest that the explicit static methodology they propose is the normative goal for scientists, and that “good” science ought to strive towards such methodologies. Lakatos said that “methodological standards act like teachers: they give marks to theories” and that theories which propose ad hoc modifications ought to be refused,3 demonstrating the belief of static method theorists that methods of appraisal ought to be taken from explicit methodologies. That being said, the distinction between explicit methodology and implicit method is ephemeral at best amongst Popperians.
Laudan perhaps comes the closest to acknowledging the distinction between method and methodology, but ultimately confuses them when explaining their respective roles.1 Laudan’s reticulated model criticizes accepted views of the time by recognizing that the explicit methodologies scientists hold are often in opposition to actually employed methods. However, in explaining how methods are “constrained” (i.e. underdetermined) by theories and “justified” by axiological aims, Laudan seems to conflate methodologies of argumentation and the actual method that theories are evaluated by.4 Barseghyan notes that other authors from Laudan’s period also conflated the terms, including Zahar and Leplin.1.
|Community||Accepted From||Acceptance Indicators||Still Accepted||Accepted Until||Rejection Indicators|
|Scientonomy||1 April 2016||It was acknowledged as an open question by the Scientonomy Seminar 2016.||Yes|
If an answer to this question is missing, please click here to add it.
The Third Law (Sebastien-2016) states: "A method becomes employed only when it is deducible from some subset of other employed methods and accepted theories of the time."
The initial formulation of the law, proposed by Barseghyan in The Laws of Scientific Change, stated that a method becomes employed only when it is deducible from other employed methods and accepted theories of the time.1 In that formulation, it wasn't clear whether employed methods follow from all or only some of the accepted theories and employed methods of the time. This led to a logical paradox which this reformulation attempts to solve.5
This reformulation of the law makes explicit that an employed method need not necessarily follow from all other employed methods and accepted theories but only from some of them. This made it possible for an employed method to be logically inconsistent and yet compatible with openly accepted methodological dicta.
In all other respects, this formulation preserves the gist of Barseghyan's original formulation. According to the third law, a method becomes employed when:
- it strictly follows from some subset of other employed methods and accepted theories, or
- it implements some abstract requirements of other employed methods.
This restates Barseghyan's original suggestion that accepted theories shape the set of implicit criteria employed in theory assessment. When a new theory is accepted, this often leads to the employment of an abstract requirement to take that new theory into account when testing relevant contender theories. This abstract requirement is then specified by a new employed method.
The evolution of the drug trial methods is an example of the third law in action. For example, the discovery of the placebo effect in drug testing demonstrates that fake treatment can cause improvement in patient symptoms. As a result of its discovery the abstract requirement of “when assessing a drug’s efficacy, the possible placebo effect must be taken into account” was generated. This abstract requirement is, by definition, an accepted theory which stipulates that, if ignored, substantial doubt would be cast on any trial. As a result of this new theory, the Single-Blind Trial method was devised. The currently employed method in drug testing is the Double-Blind Trial, a method which specifies all of the abstract requirements of its predecessors. It is an apt illustration of how new methods are generated through the acceptance of new theories, as well as how new methods employ the abstract requirements of their predecessors.1
In Barseghyan’s explication of the Aristotelian-Medieval method, he illustrates how Aristotelian natural philosophy impacted the method of the time. One of the key features of the Aristotelian-scholastic method was the requirement of intuition schooled by experience, i.e. that a proposition is acceptable if it grasps the nature of a thing though intuition schooled by experience. The requirement itself was a deductive consequence of several assumptions accepted at the time. One of the assumptions underlying this requirement was the idea that every natural thing has a nature, a substantial quality that makes a thing what it is (e.g. a human's nature is their capacity of reason). Another assumption underlying the requirement was the idea that nature of a thing can be grasped intuitively by those who are most experienced with the things of that type. The requirements of the intuitive truth followed from these assumptions. The scholastic-Aristotelians scholars wouldn’t require intuitive truths grasped by an experienced person if they didn’t believe that things have natures that could be grasped intuitively by experts.
The third law has also proven useful in explicating such requirements as Confirmed Novel Predictions (CNP). According to the hypothetico-deductive method, a theory which challenges our accepted ontology must provide CNP in order to become accepted. However, the history of CNP has been a point of confusion for some time. By the Third Law, one can show that the requirement of CNP has not always been expected of new theories. When Newton published his Principia, CNP were not a requirement of his professed method, yet they were still provided. On the other hand, Clark’s law of diminishing returns had no such predictions. This is because Newton’s proposal of unobservable entities, such as gravity and absolute space, challenged the accepted ontology of the time, while Clark’s simply accounted for the data already available. Thus, in utilizing the Third Law, one can discover both when certain criteria become an implicit rule and under what conditions they are necessary.
This question is a subquestion of Mechanism of Method Employment.
It has the following sub-topic(s):
- Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
- Thornton, Stephen. (2016) Karl Popper. In Zalta (Ed.) (2016). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/popper/.
- Motterlini, Matteo. (Ed.). (1999) For and Against Method. University of Chicago Press.
- Laudan, Larry. (1984) Science and Values. University of California Press.
- Sebastien, Zoe. (2016) The Status of Normative Propositions in the Theory of Scientific Change. Scientonomy 1, 1-9. Retrieved from https://www.scientojournal.com/index.php/scientonomy/article/view/26947.