Modification talk:Sciento-2018-0001

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Commenting on this modification is closed; the modification is accepted.

Ameer Sarwar

32 months ago
Score 0

I would like to propose a modest alteration to the definition of 'question,' which reads "a topic of inquiry." It is not clear from this definition that it is a topic of SCIENTIFIC inquiry. Although I understand that all questions would be under the umbrella of scientific questions given the purpose of the theory of scientific change (TSC), it is clear in the scientonomic community that epistemic agents can take different epistemic stances towards various epistemic elements. For example, in the current framework of the TSC, acceptance is a stance that scientific communities as agents take towards theories, which are elements.

Though Rawleigh would not have been aware of this at the time of writing, Patrick and I have submitted a paper that in part argues that 'scientificity' is a stance that agents can take towards theories, meaning that they consider the theories scientific. They can take this stance towards previously unscientific theories, or vice versa, thereby amounting to a transition in a theory's scientific status. Of course, this suggestion is by no means accepted in the scientonomic community nor do we know if the paper is of publishable quality. However, it was clear in our discussions with Hakob and Paul that scientificity, as an epistemic stance, is taken by agents towards theories. We also know that this stance has changed throughout history: Scientists once took the stance of scientificity towards phlogiston, and now they take the stance of unscientificity towards it; this observation can be made for a whole host of other theories, including astrology, theology, geocentrism etc.

Given the fairly uncontroversial argument that the stance of scientificity exists, I would like to point out that this applies to questions just as well as it applies to theories. For instance, Will himself gives the example that asking such questions as "what is the weight of phlogiston?" and "why does some matter gain mass as it loses phlogiston?" amounts to asking illegitimate questions (Rawleigh, 2018, p. 4). I construe 'illegitimate' as taking the stance of unscientificity. In order to reflect clearly this understanding (which is implicit in Will's argument and is recognized clearly by other scientonomists), I would propose the following definition of question: "A topic of scientific inquiry." Another suggestion is "A scientific topic of inquiry." Although I prefer the latter definition (since scientific methods can be employed to answer unscientific questions), the former may also be used if scientonomists think that it allows us to distinguish scientific topics of inquiry from unscientific ones. Namely, those topics/ questions that scientists consider legitimate (i.e., take the stance of scientificity towards) fall under the purview of scientific inquiry; the rest are unscientific topics of inquiry. I hope that the proposed alteration properly captures this historical fact.

I look forward to suggestions by other scientonomists.

William Rawleigh

31 months ago
Score 1

Ameer, having not read your paper yet it's difficult for me to fully reply to your concern, however based on what you've said in your comment I think that specifying questions specifically as "topics of scientific inquiry" or as "scientific topics of inquiry" may be problematic given the apparent stance of "scientificity." The reason that I say that is the stance of a given epistemic agent towards an epistemic element should be defined independently of the element itself. Specifying that questions are topics of particularly scientific inquiry seems to put the cart before the horse, so to speak.

I certainly see the argument that a given community could consider a question to be scientific or unscientific, in addition to the questions' being legitimate or illegitimate. However that is more an answer to the question of what stances can be taken towards questions, rather than just the question of how a question should be defined. Personally, I prefer broader definitions to narrower ones simply because they allow our theory to be more encompassing and less susceptible to counter examples.

Hakob Barseghyan

29 months ago
Score 0

Two comments on Ameer's comment.

1. The discussion section of a modification is not an opportune place to suggest modifications to the modification. The first reason is that, in the scientonomic workflow we are trying to follow here, any modification - albeit very slight - must be properly backed up by arguments and published in a scientonomy paper. The second reason is that, in principle, one can keep improving any formulation ad infinitum, so the question here is not whether Rawleigh's definition can or cannot be improved - of course it can; any theory can be improved. The question here is whether Rawleigh's definition is the best available at the moment. Since it is the only definition we have at the moment, the answer is obvious.

2. Whether an epistemic element is considered scientific or not characterizes not the propositional content of the element itself, but its historical fate. What is considered scientific by one epistemic agent at one point of time may or may not be considered scientific by other agents at other times. In other words, scientificity or lack thereof doesn't change the propositional content of the question. Thus, we need a neutral definition of question, such that will allow us to say that "question x is considered scientific by agent y" or "question x is considered unscientific by agent z". Ralweigh's definition does precisely that. For example, the question "what are the features of phlogiston" is, by definition, a topic of inquiry regardless of whether we think it is scientific or not.

In short, I believe Rawleigh's definition is a great starting point and is to be accepted.

Hakob Barseghyan

28 months ago
Score 0

A quick update on the status of this modification. Following a series of discussions with scientonomists over the past few months, we have come to a consensus: while the current definition seems to be amenable to further improvement (what definition is not?), it is clearly the best we have at the moment, if only because it is the only one that was published in a scientonomy paper. Thus, it is to be accepted as is, while scientonomists are encouraged to seek for ways in which this definition can be improved.

This concludes the discussion concerning this modification.

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