Scientonomy 2019: The Challenges of Constructing a Theory of Scientific Change

Country: Canada

City: Toronto

Abstr. due: 28.02.2019

Dates: 23.05.19 — 24.05.19

Area Of Sciences: Philosophy;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: University of Toronto


Since the 1990’s, few have attempted to formulate general theories of scientific change like those proposed by Fleck, Kuhn, Lakatos, and Laudan. The quest for such a theory seems to have been abandoned due to a growing awareness that science’s history was far more diverse, and employed far more methods, than general theories of scientific change could account for. For an increasing number of scholars, however, this historical and sociological data is not an obstacle to the search for a theory of scientific change. Rather it is an opportunity to craft a more nuanced theory that would explain how our theories and methods of their evaluation change through time. Such a theory must be historical rather than whiggish, and descriptive rather than normative. Developing such a theory of scientific change is in line with the growing interest in Integrated History and Philosophy of Science, Social Epistemology, and Cognitive Historiography. 

List of Topics

In the spirit of the Scientonomy community’s belief that our knowledge of scientific change is best advanced collectively, we invite papers bringing the best scholarship from the history, philosophy, and sociology of science to bear on the current state of scientonomy and its prospects. Some potential topics include, but are not limited to: 

  • Is a general descriptive theory of scientific change possible/feasible? Are there any patterns, law-like regularities in the process of scientific change?
  • What are the strengths and drawbacks of the current scientonomic theory of scientific change? Do the patterns of scientific change captured in the current scientonomic theory withstand critical scrutiny?
  • How can the current taxonomy of epistemic stances be improved? Do epistemic agents accept, use, and pursue theories, or is there something else? Are these stances independent of one another or are some of them reducible to others?  
  • Is the current taxonomy of theories, methods, and questions sufficient for capturing the types of epistemic elements that undergo scientific change? Do we need to introduce, say, paradigms, research programs, worldviews, values, or concepts, as distinct epistemic elements?
  • What is an epistemic agent and what types of epistemic agents are there? Is it just individuals? Communities? Distributed cognitive networks of people and artifacts? 
  • Can there be a systematic taxonomy for the practice of science, i.e. a taxonomy for activities, instruments, institutions, etc.?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of using the scientonomic theory in historical or sociological investigations of scientific change? 
  • Does the descriptive theory of scientific change have normative implications for the conduct of science? Can descriptive scientonomy help address the traditional issues in normative philosophy of science, such as realism, rationality, progress, etc.?

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