Scientonomy (Barseghyan-2015)

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This is a definition of Scientonomy that states "A descriptive discipline that attempts to uncover the actual general mechanism of scientific change."

This definition of Scientonomy was formulated by Hakob Barseghyan in 2015.1 It is currently accepted by Scientonomy community as the best available definition of the term.

Scientonomic History

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of this definition:
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy1 January 2016The definition became de facto accepted by the community at that time together with the whole theory of scientific change.Yes

Question Answered

Scientonomy (Barseghyan-2015) is an attempt to answer the following question: What is scientonomy? How should it be defined?

See Scientonomy for more details.


Presentation of scientonomy by Hakob Barseghyan

Scientonomy is defined as an academic discipline that aims to describe and explain the process of scientific change. While still very much in the process of inception, it is conceived to have two major branches - theoretical scientonomy and observational scientonomy. Theoretical scientonomy attempts to shed light on the ontology and dynamics of the process of scientific change. Observational scientonomy attempts to trace and explain historical and contemporary instances of scientific change.

The Scope of Scientonomy

The field of scientonomy

The term scientonomy refers to the newly emerging science of science. If science is considered the systematic study of the natural universe, then the science of science is the systematic study of the social and cognitive processes involving knowledge production. Scientonomy approaches this study in a distinctive way. It is generally accepted nowadays that the body of theories accepted by epistemic agents - individual scientists or epistemic communities - and the methods employed by these agents to evaluate them change over time.1pp. 217-225 As the empirical scientific study of this process of scientific change, scientonomy aims at providing a new approach to developing a naturalistic account of how individuals and communities acquire knowledge. It differs from related fields of inquiry, such as history of science or the sociology of scientific knowledge, in that it maintains that the process of scientific change, despite its varied guises, exhibits certain general patterns. It attempts to study and document those patterns by giving them precise formulations. As in any other field of empirical science, the findings of scientonomy are inevitably fallible and are open to modification in the light of new evidence.

The basis for this newly emerging field is Barsegyhan's theory of scientific change as propounded in his 2015 book, The Laws of Scientific Change.1 It builds on the ideas of Kuhn, Lakatos, Laudan, and others, all of which can be considered precursors of scientonomy. The field of scientonomy, given its distinctive concern for both general theory and the explanation of historical particulars is envisioned as having two branches. First, a theoretical branch attempts to uncover the ontology and the general mechanism of scientific change. Secondly, an observational branch attempts to trace and explain individual changes in the mosaics of various epistemic agents.1pp. 72-80

Theoretical scientonomy

Though highly relevant to the traditional field of philosophy of science, theoretical scientonomy differs from it in that, as a descriptive scientific field, it does not include the normative question of how science should be conducted so as to produce reliable knowledge. In the past, when a unitary and fixed scientific method was believed to exist, the descriptive question of how the process of scientific change actually works was often conflated with the normative question of how it should work if reliable knowledge is to be produced. Scientonomy seeks a clear distinction between the two, and claims only the former as its subject matter.1pp. 12-20 This restriction is motivated by the same concerns as Bloor's symmetry postulate in the sociology of scientific knowledge.2 Scientonomy's descriptive account, however, does include the descriptive study of normative propositions espoused by scientific practitioners such as those contained in their openly accepted norms such as scientific methods or ethical imperatives.3 Theoretical scientonomy concerns itself specifically with two major tasks:

  1. ) the formulation of a standard ontology of epistemic entities and relations involved in the process of scientific change; and
  2. ) the unearthing of the general patterns that underlie the process of scientific change.

The search for fixed general laws obviates the charge of incoherent relativism sometimes leveled at the sociology of scientific knowledge.4 By seeking such laws, scientonomy hopes to illuminate questions such as the nature of scientific rationality, and the naturalistic epistemological question of how knowledge has been acquired.

Observational scientonomy

Observational scientonomy is seen as differing from the current history of science discipline in significant ways. History of science currently lacks a guiding theory; specifically, the lack of a standardized ontology often results in incommensurable historical narratives. It also often focuses on the level of individual scientists, their work, and their social context, rather than on epistemic communities. By contrast, scientonomy aims at theory-driven investigations of both individual and communal epistemic agents. It seeks to confront its current theory of scientific change with evidence that may force its alteration, refinement, or replacement, and to apply it to an expanding range of particular cases, thereby enhancing our general understanding of the processes of scientific change.

Scientonomy vs. Particularism

Scientonomy and the lack of a universal scientific method

The approach of scientonomy contrasts with that of the particularism favored by some historians, social scientists, and philosophers. Particularism holds that the process of scientific change does not possess the sort of regularities that would render it amenable to any general theory. Its proponents typically make the tacit assumption that in order for a general mechanism of scientific change to exist, there must be a universal and unchanging method of science.1pp. xi-xvi, 81-97 Historical evidence now clearly indicates that the methods used by scientists to assess new theories have altered radically over time and between communities. For example, the Aristotelian-medieval method held that a scientific theory should be a set of axioms from which other propositions may be deduced. The axioms should be intuitive in the sense that any person with sufficient experience with the subject should be able to appreciate them.1pp. 143-144 Modern physicists would instead maintain that a theory must make novel predictions that are confirmed by observation and experiment.1p. 145 Scientonomy accepts the evidence that scientific methods have changed over time and differ between communities, but rejects the implication that this renders a theory of scientific change impossible. Instead, it supposes that changes in both theory and method obey a certain set of laws. It is these laws and not the methods of science, that scientonomy takes to be fixed.1pp. 82-835pp. 33-41

Individual and communal

Individual scientists differ one from another in their goals, desires, and criteria for theory appraisal. This too might seem to be grounds for rejecting the possibility of a general theory of scientific change. But the decisions to accept new theories, or to employ new methods, are made collectively by scientific communities rather than by individuals acting alone. 6 Such communities have emergent properties and behaviors that cannot be understood solely in terms of the properties which their members possess separately. Scientonomy supposes that the general regularities it seeks are to be found at the level of whole scientific communities, rather than with the unruly particulars of the work of individual scientists. It thus focuses its investigations at that level.1pp. 43-52

The apparent lack of general features in science

The particularist claim that science appears, to superficial observation at least, to possess no general features that have remained fixed through history is not grounds for dismissing the possibility of a theory of scientific change. Theories often reveal that unexpected regularities underlie seemingly disparate phenomena. On the face of it, a point of light revolving in the heavens and a falling apple seem to have nothing whatsoever in common. Newton’s theory of Universal Gravitation asserted, however, that both are movements under the influence of a gravitational force. The theory was highly successful in accounting for both falling bodies and the movements of the planets using a small set of simple general principles. The similarities between the two classes of phenomena only became evident through the formulation of the theory. Success in theory formulation often depends on the ability to identify such unexpected connections.1p. 86


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  1. a b c d e f g h i j  Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
  2. ^  Golinski, Jan. (1998) Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science. Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^  Sebastien, Zoe. (2016) The Status of Normative Propositions in the Theory of Scientific Change. Scientonomy 1, 1-9. Retrieved from
  4. ^  Siegel, Harvey. (2011) Relativism, Incoherence, and the Strong Program. In Schantz and Seidel (Eds.) (2011).
  5. ^  Laudan, Larry. (1984) Science and Values. University of California Press.