Patton (2022)

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Patton, Paul. (2022) Scientonomy and the Sociotechnical Domain. In Barseghyan et al. (Eds.) (2022), 143-175.

Title Scientonomy and the Sociotechnical Domain
Resource Type collection article
Author(s) Paul Patton
Year 2022
Collection Barseghyan et al. (Eds.) (2022)
Pages 143-175


The sociotechnical domain is the realm of scientists, the communities and institutions they form, and the tools and instruments they use to create, disseminate, and preserve knowledge. This paper reviews current scientonomic theory concerning this domain. A core scientonomic concept is that of an epistemic agent. Generally, an agent is an entity capable of intentional action—action that has content or meaning due to its purposeful direction towards a goal. An epistemic agent is one whose actions are the taking of epistemic stances, such as acceptance or rejection, towards epistemic elements, like theories or questions. An epistemic agent must semantically understand the propositions in question, and their alternatives, and choose among them with reason, with the motive of acquiring knowledge. The most obvious example of an epistemic agent is an individual human being. Rejecting the network of practitioners view, current scientonomic theory argues that appropriately organized communities of scientists can also function as epistemic agents. Communal epistemic agents are of particular scientonomic importance. Whereas the methods of theory assessment of individual scientists can be idiosyncratic, scientonomic theory contends that the taking of epistemic stances by scientific communities is a lawful, rule-governed process. A second concept of central importance is that of an epistemic tool. A physical object or system is an epistemic tool for some epistemic agent if there is a procedure by which the tool can provide an acceptable source of knowledge under the method employed by that agent. The agent is then said to rely on the tool.