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What is scientificity? How should it be defined?

Sarwar and Fraser 1 argue that a unique and independent epistemic stance can be taken by epistemic agenst towards theories, scientificity. The history of science shows that that epistemic agents view some theories as scientific and some as unscientific; general relativity is currently considered scientific by the contemporary scientific community,2 while the theory of phlogiston is considered unscientific.3 It is generally understood that there exist pseudoscientific theories, which are a subclass of unscientific theories.4 Furthermore, an agent may not definitive take the stance of scientificity towards a theory. Consider the academic discipline of marketing, for instance; there is no consensus about the scientific status of marketing, and there are arguments for and against the claim that marketing is a scientific discipline.56

If scientificity is a distinct epistemic stance, it must have a definition, but it is unclear what a precise definition would entail. Consider the following hypothetical formulation: “a theory is said to be scientific if it is taken to deal with a legitimate topic of scientific inquiry”. This may appear to be an intuitively plausible starting point, because any scientific theory must attempt to answer a question that is also scientific. However, this definition fails for several reasons.

First, it defers the content of scientificity's definition to the definition of “a legitimate topic of scientific inquiry”, which itself is dependent on the concept of scientificity. This circularity does little to define the notion of scientificity. Furthermore, according to Sarwar and Fraser, "dealing with a "legitimate topic of scientific inquiry" may be a necessary condition for the scientificity of a theory, but it cannot be a sufficient condition. It is possible that a theory may attempt to answer scientific questions, but the answers it provides may not be considered scientific".1 Sarwar and Fraser go further and claim that "it is reasonable to suspect that any attempt to define theory scientificity in terms of its relation to questions will inevitably be problematic ... It is always possible to construct ad hoc, non-scientific theories that answer a given [scientific] question. We could, for instance, answer the question of the shape of the Earth by something as nonsensical as “the Earth is donut-shaped”. If the scientificity of a theory were to be determined by the qualities of the questions being answered, then any nonsense could potentially qualify as scientific".1 The content of questions appears to be a fruitless avenue for defining scientificity. This highlights the complexity that arises when attempts to concretely define scientificity are made. Consequently, a definition is meeded, but it is not provided.

In the scientonomic context, this question was first formulated by Patrick Fraser and Ameer Sarwar in 2018.


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  1. a b c  Sarwar, Ameer and Fraser, Patrick. (2018) Scientificity and The Law of Theory Demarcation. Scientonomy 2, 55-66. Retrieved from
  2. ^  Hartle, James. (2006) General Relativity in the Undergraduate Physics Curriculum. American Journal of Physics 74 (1), 14-21..
  3. ^  Wisniak, Jaime. (2004) Phlogiston: The rise and fall of a theory. Indian Journal of Chemical Technology 11 (5), 732-743. Retrieved from
  4. ^  Hansson, Sven. (2017) Science and Pseudo-Science. In Zalta (Ed.) (2017).
  5. ^  Brown, Stephen. (1996) Art or Science? Fifty Years of Marketing Debate. Journal of Marketing Management 12 (4), 243-267.
  6. ^  Anderson, Paul. (1983) Marketing, Scientific Progress, and Scientific Method. Journal of Marketing 47 (4), 18-31.