Re: What is a theory? LO3676
Sun, 12 Nov 1995 08:50:12 -0500

Replying to LO3659 --

Replying to LO3659 (first question raised, same as subject),

I have, as John O. surmises, engaged with his first question:

Here, paste process willing, are some thoughts:

In forming my ideas about theory, I drew on the book :

A. Kaplan, The Conduct of Inquiry, San Francisco: Chandler, 1964.

Kaplan took the point of view that there are two types of theory that need
to be distinguished: "field theory and monadic theory. In the latter, the
elements are known and, by observing their behavior, we are able better to
understand the meaning of the relationships among them; while in the
former the relationships are assumed to be known and, by observing
instances of such relationships, we are better able to understand the
elements that are being related."

(Quote from J. N. Warfield, A Science of Generic Design, page 62.)

I took his ideas along with many from C. S. Peirce, and formulated what I
call the Domain of Science Model. The domain consists of foundations,
theory, methodology, and applications, circularly connected with every
part providing input to all other parts. The foundation consists of a
small set of assumptions, presuppositions, postulates, whatever you want
to call them; and its purpose is to state those beliefs that will be
elaborated in more detail (along with any laws, principles, etc.) in the
theory, in order to explain the science. The theory provides explanation.
The methodology shows how to apply the theory. The applications collect
results and feed them back to the group of three: foundations, theory,
methodology which, collectively, make up the science.

In developing the science of generic design, the foundations included
postulates related to the human being, language, reasoning through
relationships, archival representations, the design situation, and the
design process.

Chap. 6, "Theory of the Science", begins with: The primary functions of
Theory are (a) to explain the key concepts of the Science, and (b) to
anticipate the consequences of the Theory for Methodology. The priors to
the Theory include the Foundations of the Science in which the Universal
Priors are incorporated."

In general, theory will include neither be a field theory nor a monadic
theory, but rather a hybrid theory involving components of each type.

As to the second question (how do we construct new theories?); one could
try to give a descriptive or a normative answer. I think the former would
involve taking too much data, or relying on some authority which I would
not trust. The latter, however, can draw heavily on the science of
generic design, which is intended to serve any kind of human construction.

The science of semiosis or semiotics, if you prefer, aims at a complete
concept of all human construction, giving no special attention to science.
I tend to agree with that approach, if I can be allowed to discuss the
vast scale of quality that gets involved.