The Third Law (Barseghyan-2015)
An attempt to answer the question of Mechanism of Method Employment which states "A method becomes employed only when it is deducible from other employed methods and accepted theories of the time."
The basic idea of the third law is not new. A number of philosophers have suggested that our beliefs about the world shape how we engage with the world. Different versions of this idea can be found in the works of Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, Dudley Shapere, Larry Laudan, and Ernan McMullin.
Most noteworthy is Larry Laudan’s account of changes in drug trial methods. In his Science and Values, Laudan argued that the discovery of previously unaccounted effects resulted in the formulation of new methods of drug testing.2 However, while Laudan’s account hints at aspects of the third law, it ultimately conflates methods and methodologies.1
Ernan McMullin’s accounts of historical methods offer another example of a prototype of the third law. McMullin showed how the hypothetico-deductive method came to replace the Aristotelian Medieval method in the 18th century. In his account, McMullin shows that the employment of the hypothetico-deductivism was a result of accepting that the world is more complex than it appears in our observations.3 These accounts demonstrate how our accepted theories impact our criteria of theory assessment.
There have been many other attempts at explicating the way in which methods change, such as the reconstructions of Plato’s method performed by David Lindberg, or the proposal of synchronous change in paradigm shifts by Thomas Kuhn.
Barseghyan's formulation of the third law was the first attempt to address the problem of method employment in the scientonomic context.
|Community||Accepted From||Acceptance Indicators||Still Accepted||Accepted Until||Rejection Indicators|
|Scientonomy||1 January 2016||The law became de facto accepted by the community at that time together with the whole theory of scientific change. Since then, attempts have been made to replace this law,Sebastien (2016) which is a very good indicator of theory acceptance.||No||21 January 2017||The law became rejected as a result of the acceptance of Sebastien's new formulation of the Third Law. For details, refer to the modification.|
Suggestions To Reject
|Modification||Community||Date Suggested||Summary||Verdict||Verdict Rationale||Date Assessed|
|Sciento-2016-0001||Scientonomy||3 September 2016||Accept a new formulation of the third law to make it clear that employed methods do not have to be deducible from all accepted theories and employed methods but only from some.||Accepted||There was a community consensus that "the new formulation of the third law does bring an additional level of precision to our understanding of the mechanism of method change".c1 The community agreed that the new formulation "makes a clarification that, on its own, warrants this modification's acceptance".c2 Importantly, it was also agreed that the modification "solves the paradox of normative propositions".c3||21 January 2017|
The Third Law (Barseghyan-2015) is an attempt to answer the following question: How do methods become employed by a community in theory assessment?
See Mechanism of Method Employment for more details.
According to this formulation, a method becomes employed when:
- it strictly follows from some other employed methods and accepted theories, or
- it implements some abstract requirements of other employed methods.
In practice, the third law states that when a new phenomenon is discovered, this discovery produces an abstract requirement to take that discovery into account when testing relevant theories. This abstract requirement is then specified by a new employed method.
The evolution of the drug trial methods is an example of the third law in action. For example, the discovery of the placebo effect in drug testing demonstrates that fake treatment can cause improvement in patient symptoms. As a result of its discovery the abstract requirement of “when assessing a drug’s efficacy, the possible placebo effect must be taken into account” was generated. This abstract requirement is, by definition, an accepted theory which stipulates that, if ignored, substantial doubt would be cast on any trial. As a result of this new theory, the Single-Blind Trial method was devised. The currently employed method in drug testing is the Double-Blind Trial, a method which specifies all of the abstract requirements of its predecessors. It is an apt illustration of how new methods are generated through the acceptance of new theories, as well as how new methods employ the abstract requirements of their predecessors.1
The third law does not stipulate how methods should go about specifying any new abstract requirement. The third law functions as a descriptive account of how methods change, and is not responsible for describing how methods ought to change. As such, it is an effective means of explicating the requirements of other employed methods. The Aristotelian-Medieval method is one such example of its utility.
In Barseghyan’s explication of the Aristotelian-Medieval method, he illustrates how Aristotelian natural philosophy impacted the method of the time. Most notable is the acceptance of teleology – a theory which states that every thing has a nature it seeks to fulfill (e.g. an acorn’s nature is to become an oak tree). It stood to reason that the nature of a thing can only be intuitively grasped by an experienced person. This fundamental belief generated a method which specifies these requirements known as the Aristotelian-Medieval method, and is an illustration of how employed methods are deductive consequences of the accepted theories of the time.
The third law has also proven useful in explicating such requirements as Confirmed Novel Predictions (CNP). According to the hypothetico-deductive method, a theory which challenges our accepted ontology must provide CNP in order to become accepted. However, the history of CNP has been a point of confusion for some time. By the Third Law, one can show that the requirement of CNP has not always been expected of new theories. When Newton published his Principia, CNP were not a requirement of his professed method, yet they were still provided. On the other hand, Clark’s law of diminishing returns had no such predictions. This is because Newton’s proposal of unobservable entities, such as gravity and absolute space, challenged the accepted ontology of the time, while Clark’s simply accounted for the data already available. Thus, in utilizing the Third Law, one can discover both when certain criteria become an implicit rule and under what conditions they are necessary.
- Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
- Laudan, Larry. (1984) Science and Values. University of California Press.
- McMullin, Ernan. (1988) The Shaping of Scientific Rationality: Construction and Constraint. In McMullin (Ed.) (1988), 1-47.