Modification talk:Sciento-2018-0013

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Provide your comments regarding the suggested modification here. At minimum you need to indicate whether you think the modification is acceptable, why "yes" or why "no". The key question here is not whether the modification is flawless - no modification ever is. The key question is whether the modification, if accepted, will provide an overall improvement to our communal knowledge.

Please follow the instructions in the guidelines for readers.


Paul Patton

31 months ago
Score 0

My verdict is to accept, but with strong reservations. Items of the scientonomic ontology, such as stances, are typically intended to identify features of science, or more generally of knowledge systems, that are universally applicable across communities and over history. Without a satisfactory definition, 'scientificity' as a stance does not seem to possess this universality. It is intuitively obvious what 'scientificity' means for modern scientific communities, and the problem of demarcation has been identified as an important one by modern philosophers of science. But how do we use our intuition to identify the equivalent stance under the less familiar circumstances of pre-modern communities? For example, did Aristotelian scholastics identify anything resembling our demarcation problem? How would we even recognize the equivalence without the aid of a definition?

Presumably, Copernicanism would have been 'unscientific' to scholastics, since it was incompatible with a number of theories accepted in the Aristotelian scholastic mosaic. It was also unlikely to satisfy the Aristotelian method of being intuitively obvious to an expert. But there is no definition that specifies whether either criterion is relevant. We have no way to identify the equivalent scholastic stance, or even say that there was one. How, for example, does 'scientificity' relate to another concept (possibly stance) that would have been relevant to scholastics, that of heresy? The concept of heresy clearly has to do with whether a theory is compatible with the theological propositions accepted in the mosaic. Would any heretical theory also have been considered, for that reason, unscientific? This might seem plausible, but with no definition, we have no way to say. If 'scientificity' is accepted as an epistemic stance, then we need to add another open question related to that of its definition- we need to add the question of whether or how it is applicable outside the context of modern science.

Hakob Barseghyan

19 months ago
Score 0

if I understand it correctly, Sarwar and Fraser's suggestion amounts to accepting the idea that scientificity is a universal stance that can be taken towards theories. This assumes that scientificity as a stance is found not only in the post-eighteenth century science, but also in the pre-eighteenth century science. It's this latter part that I'm not sure about. What complicates the situation is that it is not quite clear what the authors mean by scientificity. I realize that providing a definition to the concept is not an easy task; scientificity is notoriously elusive. But without such a definition we cannot even begin to address the question of whether scientificity is a universal stance.

As far as I can tell scientificity is a local stance peculiar to some contemporary epistemic communities. It is likely that other epistemic agents and other time periods might have had other such local stances (e.g. heresy or dogma might be considered as local medieval attitudes towards theories). Special research into the nature of local stances is clearly necessary. All I can say here is that without a clear notion as to what taking the stance of scientificity amount to it is difficult to say whether it is applicable to all epistemic agents or whether it is only a local stance peculiar to some contemporary communities.

Hakob Barseghyan

19 months ago
Score 0
A quick follow up on my previous comment. It is currently accepted that the criteria that make up a method are threefold - acceptance criteria, compatibility criteria, and demarcation criteria. If we end up not accepting Sarwar and Fraser's modification, it will mean that the idea of demarcation criteria as universal components of a method should also be rejected. This is another illustration of the phenomenon of ripple effect.

Ameer Sarwar

15 months ago
Score 1

Thank you, Paul and Hakob, for your comments. I agree that the concept would greatly improve if it were properly defined. Yet, just as providing a criteria of demarcation is notoriously difficult, defining scientificity is likewise challenging. Nonetheless, I would like to suggest that we can intuitively understand 'scientificity' as relating to a community's notions of legitimacy or illigitimacy of theories, methods, or quesitons. I concede that the use of the term "scientificity" was imprudent on our part, as it sounds too science-centric. And so Paul correctly points out that it is difficult to see how this stance applies to pre-Scholastic communities that were not "scientific" in the same way as the post-18th century communities.

However, I would recommend that focusing on the term--which I am open to changing--somewhat takes away from the concept it is supposed to denote, namely that there is a logical difference between a community considering something legitimate (i.e., potentially acceptable) and considering it illigitimate (i.e., in principle unacceptable). In this light, even though the pre-Scholastics may not have had a concrete notion of "scientificity," as far as I can tell the idea of what counts as legitimate knowledge versus what is illigitimate is likely present, albeit implicity.

You may point out that anything they deemed as legitimate was also accepted, so there is no difference between them. This may very well be, and I think it points to a way in which we may differ in our notions of what a scientonomic explanation amounts to. I am inclined to focus on the logical differences between concepts, such as acceptance, scientificity, use, etc., even though these concepts may not be "realized" in a given community. For example, imagine a community in which all of the accepted theories were also used and vice versa. When considering this community, there would be no reason for thinking that use and acceptance are distinct stances. Yet, we can all agree that even though some given community, say the pre-Scholastics for argument's sake, may not actually differentiate between these two stances, the stances themselves -- at a conceptual level -- are quite distinct. This would show that while use and acceptance may not be "realized" -- i.e., may not manifest in historical data -- they are nonetheless conceptually separate. You may ask: why are they conceptually separate? Well, it is because other communities do take one stance without taking the other, namely other data suggest that the two concepts are actually dissociable, and therefore, they are also logically separate.

I would like to suggest that we consider the difference between scientificity and other stances the way we would consider the difference between acceptance and use. Surely, as Paul and Hakob both agree, at least the contemporary scientific community takes the stance of scientificity without taking the stance of acceptance (e.g., string theory). Thus, we have at least one data point to suggest that these two stances are dissociable. Therefore, they are also logically distinct. In light of my comments about the "realization" of a concept in historical data, the best interpretation (it seems to me) is that while scientificity is a unique and logically separate stance, it need not manifest itself in all historical periods. Accordingly, I would recommend the acceptance of this modification while accepting that, as far as I know, it may not universally manifest itself in historical data.

Moreover, I wish to remark on Paul's point vis-a-vis heresy. As he points out, these are assertions or propositions which contradict the accepted theological propositions. If I understand his argument correctly, this shows that the notion of illigitimacy or unscientificity is derived from or is the consequence of incompatability rather than something that is independent. However, as we argue in Fraser & Sarwar (2018), the critical point for us is to separate these ideas in principle and to show that, at a logical level, they are distinct even if they may not appear in all historical cases. Consider a hypothetical community that only deems as legitimate or scientific theories that do not contradict its already accepted theories. Anytime a theory contradicted an already accepted proposition, it would be deemed unscientific. Now, I ask: how would the theory and method rejection theorems work for such a community. Recall that theory rejection theorem holds that a theory in the mosaic is rejected if it is incompatible with a newly accepted theory. But if Paul's suggestion is correct, then the "newly accepted theory" can never become accepted to begin with. It would always be deemed as unacceptable. If so, the theory (and method) rejection theorems would have no explanatory role. These would not be universally present in all historical episodes, so if we apply the same logic that we are applying to scientificity, it would appear as though these should not be part of the scientonomic "toolbox." But I think we can likely agree that such a criterion seems unduly restrictive.

Finally, I wish to make a general observation (which I previously alluded to in passing) about what a scientonomic explanation may amount to. Paul and Hakob mention that universality seems like a worthy criterion of what should be included in the scientonomic explanans. This criterion is definitely reasonable if our task is to only explain those scientific changes that demonstrate some universal properties. It was suggested that since scientificity is supposedly not universal -- that is, there are historical cases in which it seemingly does not manifest -- we should not include it as a scientonomic explananda. However, I think this is a mistake. First, focusing exclusively on universal features of epistemic mosaics leaves a relatively small set of coarse-grained explananda. Rather, I belive our aim should be to explain both the universal and the local features of scientific changes. Alternatively, it may be shown that the local properties are nothing more than qualified instances of universal features. Nonetheless, ignoring local features seems misguided. Second, in a given scientonomic explanation, not all of the explanans need to be used. I think it is perfectly acceptable to use some of them without using the others. For example, when explaining some change in the post-18th century science, we may refer to scientificity quite explicitly and explain that, say, a rejected theory continued to be scientific. By comparison, when explaining some change in the pre-Scholastic community, we may not need to rely on scientificity. Rather, other aspects of the scientonomic explanans may suffice to provide an answer. This to me does not suggest that scientificity is a redundant explanans, for it is used to explain some of the scientific changes. Rather, its addition only enhances the explanatory capability of scientonomy. For all of these reasons -- some of which are specific to scientificity while others are more general -- I suggest that we accept this modification.

Kye Palider

15 months ago
Score 0
The way you talk about scientificity as "legitimate (i.e., potentially acceptable)" or "illegitimate (i.e., in principle unacceptable)" seems to equate scientificity with acceptability. Acceptability in the modal sense where if the appropriate evidence were to present itself, then that theory would become accepted. Are they the same thing? If they are, then acceptability is certainly a universal notion that can be applied to virtually all eras and agents. If not, then how does scientificity differ from acceptability?

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