Status of Questions

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What is the status of questions (problems, topics) in the ontology of epistemic elements?

Nicholas Overgaard explains the topic

Questions/topics are one of several key categories of our encyclopedia (along with theories and modifications). Are questions part of the process of scientific change, or are they merely a useful instrument for organizing scientonomic data? It seems apparent that the relevance of a question/topic may be different in different time periods and different mosaic. For instance, while the question of phlogiston's properties would be a legitimate research question in the mid-18th century, it is no longer legitimate in the contemporary chemistry. This seems to suggest that questions are not merely a useful instrument for storing and presenting scientonomic data, but are actually part of the process of scientific change. Thus, it is important to identify what status questions have in the mosaic, i.e. whether or not they are their own entities, or whether they are expressible through theories.

In the scientonomic context, this question was first formulated by Nicholas Overgaard and Hakob Barseghyan in 2016. The question is currently accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by Scientonomy community. Questions as Epistemic Elements (Rawleigh-2018) is currently accepted by Scientonomy community as the best available answer to the question. It is formulated as: "Questions (topics, problems) are epistemic elements."

Scientonomic History

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of this question (it includes all the instances when the question was accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by a community):
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy1 April 2016It was acknowledged as an open question by the Scientonomy Seminar 2016.Yes

All Theories

The following theories have attempted to answer this question:
TheoryFormulationFormulated In
Questions as Epistemic Elements (Rawleigh-2018)Questions (topics, problems) are epistemic elements.2018

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Accepted Theories

The following theories have been accepted as answers to this question:
CommunityTheoryAccepted FromAccepted Until
ScientonomyQuestions as Epistemic Elements (Rawleigh-2018)26 September 2018

Suggested Modifications

Here is a list of modifications concerning this topic:
ModificationCommunityDate SuggestedSummaryVerdictVerdict RationaleDate Assessed
Sciento-2018-0002Scientonomy12 May 2018Accept the ontology of epistemic elements with theories, methods, and questions as distinct epistemic elements.AcceptedFollowing several focused discussions - both in-person and on the discussion page of this modification - it was finally decided that the modification is to be accepted. Three important clarifications were made. First, it was noted that Rawleigh only shows that questions cannot be reduced either to methods or to theories, but it is still conceivable "that questions may be functions of both theories and methods simultaneously".c1 Second, it was decided that accepting the modification is still warranted, since currently we don't have any idea how questions could be reduced to a conjunction of theories and methods.c2 Third, scientonomists are actively encouraged to pursue the question of possibility of reducing questions to a conjunction of theories and methods.c326 September 2018

Current View

In Scientonomy, the accepted answer to the question is Questions as Epistemic Elements (Rawleigh-2018).

Questions as Epistemic Elements (Rawleigh-2018) states: "Questions (topics, problems) are epistemic elements." A study of the process of scientific change reveals many cases when a question that was considered legitimate in a certain time-period became illegitimate in another period. For example, the questions such as “what is the weight of phlogiston?” or “why does some matter gain mass as it loses phlogiston?” were accepted as legitimate topics of inquiry for the most part of the 18th century. Yet, once the phlogiston theory was rejected, these questions became illegitimate. Another examples is the question “what is the distance from the earth to the sphere of stars?” that was once considered legitimate by astronomers, but is no longer accepted.1p. 4

Similarly, there are questions which are considered legitimate these days but weren't accepted even a few centuries ago. An example of this is the question “what’s the underlying mechanics of the evolution of species?” - a perfectly legitimate topic of biological research nowadays that would have been deemed illegitimate three hundred years ago.1p. 4

These examples suggest that questions are part of the process of scientific changes. More specifically, they are part the ontology of epistemic elements.

Related Topics

This question is a subquestion of Epistemic Elements.

This topic is also related to the following topic(s):


  1. a b  Rawleigh, William. (2018) The Status of Questions in the Ontology of Scientific Change. Scientonomy 2, 1-12. Retrieved from