Scope of Scientonomy - Descriptive and Normative
Ought a scientonomic theory be descriptive or normative?
There are at least three different sorts of questions concerning the process of scientific change; historical questions, theoretical questions, and methodological questions 1. Historical questions deal with actual courses of events such as what theories were accepted and what methods were employed at a particular time. Theoretical questions deal with such matters as the mechanisms of theory and method change. These are both sorts of descriptive questions. Methodological questions deal with normative matters such as what methods ought to be employed and what theories ought to be accepted. The question at issue is which of these sorts of questions ought to fall within the scope of scientonomy, and which should not. As a result, the answer to this question will determine which cases can be investigated through scientonomy.
In Scientonomy, the accepted answer to the question is:
- Scientonomy is a descriptive discipline whose main task is to explain the process of changes in the scientific mosaic. It is distinct from normative methodology, whose task is to evaluate and prescribe methods. The findings of scientonomy may be used in such normative evaluations, but scientonomy itself should not be expected to perform any normative functions.
Logical positivists were concerned with justifying scientific knowledge and progress. In their case, it was about increasing the probabilities. As a consequence, they believed that a theory of scientific change should be normative. After all, the actual scientific practices may concern many changes in belief that were not justified on epistemic grounds. An illustration of this tendency can be found in Alfred Jules Ayer's work engaged with questions of justification such as whether the principle of verifiability is justified rather than empirical questions about the behavior of the scientists.2
Likewise, Karl Popper believed that his theories were meant to be normative and he did not focus on studying the actual examples of science.3 However, both group occasionally employed examples from the history of science to persuade other philosophers. For instance, Popper used Eddington’s confirmation of Einstein’s theory to illustrate his concept of crucial experiments.4
Imre Lakatos distinguished between internal and external history of science. The latter is concerned with what actually happened during an episode of scientific change while the former is about justifying the scientific change on grounds that are epistemically acceptable.5 Internal history of science is about reconstructing a scientific episode and justifying it by using the normative theories we possess.5
After the Structure of Scientific Revolutions was published, Thomas Kuhn changed the view of the entire field. He showed that many of the scientific changes were completely different from the normative philosophical views of how good science ought to be conducted. For example, scientists often tolerated the existence of anomalies which would not be permitted according to the naive falsificationist view Popper defended in his work the Logic of Scientific Discovery.6 3This led to a disenchantment over the normative theories due to the fact that it they were not justifying the actual science as it is conducted. Given that the main reason for normative justification of various scientific practices was justifying the epistemic authority of science, philosophers of science began accepting that the actual practice of science should be the starting point of philosophical theories. This move away from the purely normative theories to the historically informed theories of science is often called the historicist turn in the philosophy of science literature.
Sociologists of scientific knowledge focused on the workings of actual science as well. Proponents of the Strong Programme had many case studies where they examined individual case studies. For example, one study focused the role of Pasteur’s beliefs on the scientific positions he held.7 This work applied an empirical framework instead of a priori theorizing about what Pasteur might have believed.7
Finally, it is important to note that one of the main reasons why the classic philosophy of science engaged with both normative and descriptive views is that many philosophers conflated the descriptive questions with the normative ones . The theories of Kuhn, Lakatos, and early Laudan can all be considered either as descriptions of how science changes through time and/or prescriptions of how it ought to change.1
|Community||Accepted From||Acceptance Indicators||Still Accepted||Accepted Until||Rejection Indicators|
|Scientonomy||1 January 2016||That is when the community accepted its first answer to this question, the Scope of Scientonomy - Description(Barseghyan-2015), which indicates that the question is itself considered legitimate.pp. 12-21||Yes|
|Scope of Scientonomy - Descriptive (Barseghyan-2015)||Scientonomy is a descriptive discipline whose main task is to explain the process of changes in the scientific mosaic. It is distinct from normative methodology, whose task is to evaluate and prescribe methods. The findings of scientonomy may be used in such normative evaluations, but scientonomy itself should not be expected to perform any normative functions.||2015|
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|Community||Theory||Accepted From||Accepted Until|
|Scientonomy||Scope of Scientonomy - Descriptive (Barseghyan-2015)||1 January 2016|
In Scientonomy, the accepted answer to the question is Scope of Scientonomy - Descriptive (Barseghyan-2015).
Scope of Scientonomy - Descriptive (Barseghyan-2015) states: "Scientonomy is a descriptive discipline whose main task is to explain the process of changes in the scientific mosaic. It is distinct from normative methodology, whose task is to evaluate and prescribe methods. The findings of scientonomy may be used in such normative evaluations, but scientonomy itself should not be expected to perform any normative functions."
There are at least three sorts of questions that we might ask about the process of scientific change; Historical questions having to do with what theories and methods were accepted by a particular community at a particular point in time, theoretical questions about the mechanisms of scientific change, and methodological questions about how scientific change ought to happen and what theories and methods ought to be accepted. The first two questions are descriptive in nature, and the third is normative. 1
As the "science of science" scientonomy seeks a purely descriptive account of processes of change in the scientific mosaic and therefore encompasses only historical and theoretical questions. Keeping descriptive scientific questions distinct from questions of normative methodology avoids numerous pitfalls. For example, those who conflate the two sometimes argue that because some method is known to have flaws of logical consistency or soundness, it cannot possibly have been the one that was, in fact, used by scientists. However, there is a great deal historical evidence that scientists actually have used logically flawed methods. Inductive reasoning is a ubiquitous part of science, despite its well known flaws.81 The intrusion of normative concerns could also undermine scientonomy's aspirations to scientific status. If any laws of scientific change discovered were accorded normative force they would become tautological truths incapable being called into question by empirical inquiry.
This question is a subquestion of Scope of Scientonomy.
This topic is also related to the following topic(s):
- Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
- Ayer, Alfred Jules. (1952) Language, Truth and Logic. Dover Publications.
- Popper, Karl. (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Hutchinson & Co.
- Popper, Karl. (1963) Conjectures and Refutations. Routledge.
- Lakatos, Imre. (1971) History of Science and Its Rational Reconstructions. In Lakatos (1978a), 102-138.
- Kuhn, Thomas. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
- Geison, Gerald and Farley, John. (1974) Science, politics and spontaneous generation in nineteenth-century France: the Pasteur-Pouchet debate. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 48 (2), 161-98. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/4617616/.
- Vickers, John. (2014) The Problem of Induction. In Zalta (Ed.) (2016). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/.