What lies at the heart of any given theory? Or rather, what is it, when we are presented with a plurality of accounts for a particular phenomenon, that we use to distinguish one from another; as sociologists, why are we Marxists rather than Postmoderns, as philosophers, why are we Endurantists compared to Purdurantists? It is a language of theoretical norms that we must appeal to.
In the assessment of a theory we must ask questions of what constitutes a good theory; and insofar as we are to ask a question pertaining to the preference of a theory, we are asking a normative theory. As such, I maintain that at the core of all theories, and at the core of all judgments of propositions from mere ‘p’s to truth-statements, or rather, best appropriations of such truth. What a fundamentally bold suggestion, to say that at the heart of all theories (upon which, we derive ‘facts’), is a norm!
What norms can we have? Norms of which their status derives no truth themself; but rather, constitute not only the conditions of possibility, but the conditions of proper epistemic conduct. These norms are desideratum; statements of what is desirable about a theory.
Consider Bennett’s paper on Analytic Transcendental Arguments; where there is a short discussion on theories. Bennett poses the question: what is it about theory T that we must jettison to replace with T*?
A given T* may explain more than T; so we ditch T for T*
ENTHYMEME: It is desirable for an account to explain more
A given T* may have less commitments than T, but explain the same, or more than T; so we ditch T for T*
ENTHYMEME: It is desireable to be economical in our explananda, to get more explanation out of less commitment
Perhaps a strong, and perhaps seemingly non-sequitur suggestion is taht truth is comprised of the compound of all these metatheoretic norms; and we may deflate truth (or complicate, if you see it that way), into a whole gamut of desideata which form our current constitutient norms of what is likely to be accepted, given wider standards. For instance, our standards of rigour may vary context-dependent, but contingent to now; our construal of what is true may be contingent upon the syntax upon which we use in the business of provability and argumentation.