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Nursing Philosophy Essay

Introduction Philosophy originates with the Greek word philosophia, which translates as “the love of wisdom”. Philosophers are engaged in inquiry concerning the search for truth, the nature of universe and the meaning of human experience. Welch& Polifroni(1999). The aim of this paper is to compare and contrast the philosophical paradigms of Realism, Antirealism, Phenomenology , Postmodernism. To relate the Empiricism, Positivism, Historicism, and Relativism to the nature of scientific truth. Moreover, to discuss the significance of truth for nursing as a profession and as a science.

The various paradigms are characterized by ontological, epistemological and methodological differences in their approaches to conceptualizing and conducting research, and in their contribution towards disciplinary knowledge construction. Weaver, and Olson. (2006). Table 1 illustrate theses differences between these philosophical paradigms. Realism and Antirealism Realism has an ontology which states that the structures creating the world cannot be directly observed.

Its epistemology is that appearances do not necessarily reveal the mechanisms which cause these appearances, and its methodology therefore involves the construction of theories which can account for these appearances. Wainwright,S. ( 1997). Realism, in the Aristotelian, holds that things and individuals have existence independent of human thought and that this extra-mental world is intelligible and forms a basis for evaluating propositions about the world.

Whelton,B. (2002) 2 Philosophy course –First Assignment Positivism collapses the world into a single plane of events. In contrast, realism recovers the ontological depth between the three stratified domains and thereby establishes relations of natural necessity rather than the relations of logical necessity (universality). Wainwright,S. ( 1997). Relevance of Realism to Nursing Realism proposes a common ontology and epistemology for the natural and social sciences.

Realism enables the traditional natural and social science division in subjects like geography, psychology, medicine and nursing to be bridged. Realism can therefore provide ontological and epistemological basis for nursing. Wainwrigh( 1997). On the other hand, the interest her in the causal and epistemological ingredients of scientific realism because they support the claim that explanations are important in nursing science and practice and that the aim of scientist is to discover better and better explanations. Gortner, and Schumacher,(1992).

Relevance of Antirealism to Nursing It the positivist antirealism that make their views inappropriate for nursing science. It is not possible in positivism to deal with subjective aspects of person, nor with perceived relational processes, nor with explanations without translating them into physiological states or behaviors. One of the most serious consequences of an antilrealist construction of theories is that theories cannot explain.

One of the major distinction between scientific realism and antirealism is the way in which “theoretical entities” are understood. In the language of scientific realism the term “theoretical entities” usually means unobservable entities, states, or processes. The antirealists deny the existence of 3 Philosophy course –First Assignment unobservable entities or process. Antirealist assert that the notion of truth or falsity is relevant to observation even though it is not relevant to theory. Gortner, and Schumacher,(1992).

Phenomenology For Edmund Husserl, phenomenology is “the reflective study of the essence of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view” Phenomenology, founded by Edmund Husserl, promotes the idea that the natural world is largely shaped by the human mind. Wikipedia, (2007). Phenomenology is philosophical movement whose primary objective is the direct investigation and description of phenomena as consciously experienced. It remains different from and in opposition to positivism because it is a theoretical, non causal, and attempts to be free of supposition. Welch(1999) P243).

Postmodernism The essence of truth lies within the individual and the individual may change or later alter that view dependent on the context and the circumstances. Thus, the postmodern worldview is that truth neither singular nor multiple; it is personal and highly individualized and contextually driven. Welch & Polifoni (1999)p-58) The Significance of Truth for Nursing as a Profession and as a Science. Science, philosophy and philosophy of science are all topics of great significance to nursing…the need to examine issues of what it means to know, what truth is, how we know and what can be learned from science and philosophy is central to growth in the 4 Philosophy course –First Assignment discipline.

Simultaneously, it is imperative that nurse scholars gain understanding of the divers scientific and philosophic traditions that have influenced the development of nursing knowledge in order to develop and enhance our science, our discipline and our profession. ”. Welch and Polifroni (1999(p-1)) Philosophy of science in nursing seeks to understand truth, to examine prediction, causality and law, to critically relate theories, models and scientific systems. Theses goals are accomplished through the methods of philosophic inquiry of reflection and dialogue. Welch& Polifroni(1999(p-5)).

In order to understand what truth is, Welch& Polifroni(1999) discussed the sources of truth ( Intuition, Authority, Tradition, Common Sense and Science)as well as the theories of truth such as correspondence theory; coherence theory; pragmatic theory; semantic and performative theory. These theories gave different interpretations for truth, for instance, correspondence theory suggests that truth is related to and correspond with reality, the truth is achieved through perceptions of the world, on the other hand for coherence theory, the truth is true if it is coherent while for the pragmatic theory the truth is relative and related to the practicality and workableness of a solution.

According to Newman, Sime and Corcoran-Perry(1991):’’ Nursing is the study of caring in the human health experience…nursing body of knowledge includes caring and human health experience. A body of knowledge that does not include caring and human health experience is not nursing knowledge. ”. Truth can be achieved through knowing principles and causes of the natural kind behind phenomena. It is proposed that humans are the natural kind behind nursing phenomena.

Thus, human nature provides proper principles (the truth) of nursing 5 Philosophy course –First Assignment practice…. It is proposed that it is knowledge of human nature that provides principles of human action, and thus human nature is a source of practical truth in nursing. Whelton . (2002). The realist ontological position assumes that an objective world exists independently of our knowledge, beliefs , theories or descriptions about it.

This reality exists whether or not we can experience it or have conceptions of its nature. In contrast, several nonrealist positions have also been advanced, incorporating a wide variety of philosophical views pertaining to truth. These positions reject ontological and/or epistemological realism, and therefore truth cannot be related to an external reality . Lomborg and Kirkevold (2003).

However, Gortner and Schumacher (1992 )stated that ‘’ Nursing scholars can explore scientific realism for the insights it may provide for nursing science “. Moreover, Gortner and Schumacher (1992) proposed that “ Scientific realism is relevant to nursing science in the following ways: (1) It supports the full range of nursing theory; (2) It affirms the importance of including subjective client states in nursing theory and refutes the claim of the positivists that if it is not observable, it does

not exist. ;(3) It adds the idea of the substantive content of explanations to discussion about forms of explanation;(4) It includes the notion of truth as a regulative ideal in science and claims that better theories are theories that are closer to the truth”. 6 Philosophy course –First Assignment Relate the Empiricism, Positivism, Historicism, and Relativism to the nature of scientific truth Positivism Positivist approaches are founded on an ontology that the things we experience are things that exist.

Its epistemology requires that this experience is verified through the deductive methodology of the `scientific method’ Wainwright,S. ( 1997). The positivistic philosophy of science will for example argue that scientific knowledge is objective and should be verified accordingly. Nyatanga(2005). The Relevance of Positivism to Nursing : It the positivist antirealism that make their views inappropriate for nursing science. It is not possible in positivism to deal with subjective aspects of person, nor with perceived relational processes, nor with explanations without translating them into physiological states or behaviors.

One of the most serious consequences of an antilrealist construction of theories is that theories cannot explain. Gortner, and Schumacher, (1992). EMPIRICISM Empiricism in its classical sense was a philosophical doctrine that considered observation to be the foundation of knowledge. Gortner and Schumacher(1992). Contemporary empiricism is a paradigm that has the ability to facilitate the application of the scientific facts learned from empirical methods within the appropriate context by taking interpretative knowledge into account…

It thus seems apparent that a broader view of scientific knowledge is required, and this is where contemporary views of 7 Philosophy course –First Assignment empiricism are more applicable to the practice of nursing. However, before reviewing the basic tenets of contemporary empiricism, there is a need to provide an overview of interpretive methods and their ability to provide a context or structure for the use of empirical knowledge.

Pluralism supports the assumption of contemporary empiricism that human responses can be identified, measured and understood even considering their complex nature. Therefore, an important part of nursing knowledge acquisition includes a synthesis of the data in order to better understand the synergistic effects of the whole, which cannot be learned simply by studying its parts. Traditional empiricism provides a basis for the study of certain types of knowledge that have made important contributions to the science of nursing. Giuliano,K. ( 2003)

The strength of contemporary empiricism is that it values traditional empirical knowledge but takes interpretive knowledge into account in order to provide a context for the appropriate application of that knowledge. The pluralistic nature of contemporary empiricism gives it the ability to bridge the gap between the facts of scientific knowledge and the use of scientific knowledge in order to facilitate the application of all types of nursing knowledge. Giuliano,K. ( 2003).

HISTORICISM The main protagonist of historicism is Kuhn. He was dismayed to find that traditional accounts of the philosophy of science bore no comparison with historical 8 Philosophy course –First Assignment evidence. He then set out to establish a theory of the philosophy of science in keeping with historical evidence as he saw it (hence the term historicism). Nyatanga (2005). Relativism Epistemological relativism view of truth and falsity in general are relative.

An epistemological relativist denies that anything at all can be known with certainty. According to hard core epistemological relativism, everything is a matter of opinion, including science. In this view of truth, nursing science has much knowledge that is derived from opinion and personal experience and consequently it is relative knowledge. Summary The importance and significance of the philosophical world views of realism, antirealism, phenomenology , postmodernism, positivism, empiricism, relativism and historicism for nursing science and profession were explored in this paper.

However, this area need more detailed exploration through our philosophy course in order to understand the similarities and differences between these philosophical worldviews and how we can integrate this knowledge in our practice and education. 9 Philosophy course –First Assignment References Giuliano,K. (2003). Expanding the use of empiricism in nursing: can we bridge the gap between knowledge and clinical practice? Nursing Philosophy. 2003,4, pp. 44–52. Gortner,S. and Schumacher,K. (1992). (Mis)conception and Reconceptions about Traditional Science. Advances in Nursing Science, 1992, 14(4):1-11 Lomborg,K. and Kirkevold,M.(2003).

Truth and validity in grounded theory – a reconsidered realist interpretation of the criteria: fit, work, relevance and modifiability. Nursing Philosophy, 2003,4, pp. 189–200. Newman,M. , Sime, A. , and Cororan-Perry. .(1991)The Focus of the Discipline of Nursing. Advances in Nursing Science,(1991),14(1)1-6. Nyatanga, L. (2005). Nursing and the philosophy of science. Nurse Education Today (2005) 25, 670–674 Wainwright, S. ( 1997). A new paradigm for nursing: the potential of realism. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 1997, 26, 1262-1271 Weaver, K. and Olson, J. (2006).

Understanding paradigms used for nursing research. Journal of Advanced Nursing 2006 – Vol. 53 Issue 4 pages 459–469 10 Philosophy course –First Assignment Welch,M. and Polifoni,E. (1999) . Perspectives on Philosophy of Science in Nursing. An Historical and Contemporary Anthology. Copyright 1999. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins . Whelton,B. (2002) Human nature as a source of practical truth: Aristotelian–Thomistic realism and the practical science of nursing. Nursing Philosophy,2002, 3, pp. 35–46 Wikipedia, (2007). Phenomenology. Wikipedia the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Phenomenology.


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