What does it mean to say that a theory is pursued? How should theory pursuit be defined?
By reviewing the history of science, one can find that not all theories that interested scientists were accepted. For example, many physicists are currently pursuing some forms of the string theory, but the string theory is not accepted as the best available theory by the scientific community. 1 It is also obvious that pursed and accepted theories were not well-distinguished by philosophers of science in the past; confusion between the three terms leads to serious misunderstanding. However, since one of the focuses in the TSC is scientific change, which deals exclusively with accepted theories, in order to explain the transition of accepted theories and to make sure that we can focus on discussing accepted theories only, it became increasingly important to distinguish different types of theories in terms of their acceptance status in the scientific community 1.
In Scientonomy, the accepted definition of the term is:
- A theory is said to be pursued if it is considered worthy of further development.
The earliest attempt to distinguish acceptance and pursuit can be traced back to David Hume. In his book A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume discussed the distinction between believing and entertaining . The concept of believing can be seen as accepting certain theories while entertaining means trying to pursue certain potentially valuable theories without believing or accepting them.2
The distinction is first explicitly introduced by Imre Lakatos in his Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes. In the article, he came up with criteria that determine which competing theory is better. This is a clear indication that Lakatos distinguished accepted theories and pursued theories, because it is impossible for theories to be competitive if all theories are equally accepted. Moreover, Lakatos made the concept of pursuing theories even clearer by describing the progress of scientific knowledge as pursuing new facts to fit “phantasies” that scientists came up beforehand.3
The distinction is also explicitly introduced by Larry Laudan in his Progress and its Problems, as he states that there are two contexts of theories and research traditions, which are the context of acceptance and the context of pursuit.4 When discussing pursuing theories, Laudan brought up the idea of “competing theories”, which suggests that Laudan does not see theories as final truths of the world.4
Stephen Wykstra also noticed the distinction as presented in his article Toward a Historical Meta-Method for Assessing Normative Methodologies: Rationability, Serendipity, and the Robinson Crusoe Fallacy, where he made a clear distinction between accepted theories and pursed theories.5 In his work, pursuing theories is closely related to the notion of testing scientific hypothesis.5
In the context of scientonomy, the distinction between accepted, used and pursued theories is discussed by Hakob Barseghyan. He argued that people constantly misuse these terms and it is necessary to make them unambiguous and thus formulated the concept of pursued theories.
|Community||Accepted From||Acceptance Indicators||Still Accepted||Accepted Until||Rejection Indicators|
|Scientonomy||1 January 2016||Yes|
|Theory Pursuit (Barseghyan-2015)||A theory is said to be pursued if it is considered worthy of further development.||2015|
|Community||Theory||Accepted From||Accepted Until|
|Scientonomy||Theory Pursuit (Barseghyan-2015)||1 January 2016|
Theory Pursuit (Barseghyan-2015) states: "A theory is said to be pursued if it is considered worthy of further development."
A theory is said to be pursued if it is considered worthy of further development. 1 An example is provided by mid-seventeenth century science. Throughout this period, the Aristotelian natural philosophy, with its geocentric cosmology, four elements, and four causes remained accepted by the scientific community of Europe as evidenced, for example, by its central place in university curricula. The theories from this period that we are most familiar with from modern popular and professional literature, like Copernicus's heliocentric cosmology, and Galileo's theories of motion, were not accepted, but pursued theories. More generally these included the mechanical natural philosophy championed by a community which included Descartes, Huygens, Boyle, and many others, and the magnetical natural philosophy, espoused by Gilbert, Kepler, Stevin, Wilkins and others. In our modern world, the major accepted physical theories include Einstein's relativity theory, quantum mechanics, and the standard model of particle physics. A variety of other theories are not accepted but are being pursued. These include various versions of string theory, and attempts to quantize general relativity, to create a quantum theory of gravity.1
While a variety of unaccepted theories are typically pursued, accepted theories also typically continue to be pursued. General relativity has been the accepted theory of gravitation since roughly 1918. 1 The theory and its implications for astrophysics and cosmology continue to be pursued in a variety of ways. For example, in 2016, researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in the United States announced the first-ever direct detection of gravitational waves, thereby verifying a major prediction of the theory. 67
If a question concerning the ontology of theory pursuit is missing, please add it here.
If a question concerning the dynamics of theory pursuit is missing, please add it here.
This term is also related to the following topic(s):
- Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
- Hume, David. (2000) A Treatise of Human Nature. Oxford University Press.
- Lakatos, Imre. (1970) Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes. In Lakatos (1978a), 8-101.
- Laudan, Larry. (1977) Progress and Its Problems. University of California Press.
- Wykstra, Stephen. (1980) Toward a Historical Meta-Method for Assessing Normative Methodologies: Rationability, Serendipity, and the Robinson Crusoe Fallacy. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, 211-222.
- Castelvecchi, Davide and Witze, Alexandra. (2016) Einstein's Gravitational Waves Found at Last. Nature. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/news/einstein-s-gravitational-waves-found-at-last-1.19361.
- Abbott, Benjamin. (2016) Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger. Physical Review lettters 116, 061102. Retrieved from https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.061102.