Epistemology of Nursing

  • Epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. (SEP, 2005)
  • Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which deals with "theory of knowledge".
  • Epistemology deals with questions concerning the nature, scope, and sources of knowledge.
  • Epistemology is closely related to critical thinking.
  • The term epistemology was introduced into English by James Frederick Ferrier (1808-1864).
  • It addresses the questions:
    • What is knowledge?
    • How is knowledge acquired?
    • How do we know what we know?
  • Epistemology has been defined as 'a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods; and limits of human knowledge.' (Kothari & Mehta, 1993)
  • Epistemology is defined as "the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity" (Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, 11th Edition).
  • Medical epistemology refers to the knowledge of scope of epistemiology in medicine and consciousness of its limitations.
  • Beliefs
  • Truth
  • Justification
  • Empiricism - knowledge is based on experience
  • Idealism - knowledge is innate or not based on experience
  • Rationalism - knowledge is based on reason and empirical evidence
  • Constructivism - knowledge is "constructed"
Epistemiology of Nursing
  • The epistemology of nursing and competencies required in health care today demand examination of how and where students acquire clinical, conceptual, and empirical knowledge (Vinson, 2000).
  • Mitchell GJ, Cody WK. Nursing Knowledge and Human Science: Ontological and Epistemological Considerations. Nurs Sci Q Summer, 1992, 5;254-61.
  • Horsfall JM. Madness in our methods: nursing research, scientific epistemology. Nursing Inquiry. 1995; 2:1. Jan M.
  1. Kothari ML, Mehta LA. Medical education: an epistemiological enquiry. J Postgrad Med 1993;39:114.
  2. Vinson JA. Nursing's epistemology revisited in relation to professional education competencies.J Prof Nurs. 2000 Jan-Feb;16(1):39-46.
  3. Yorks L, Sharoff L. An extended epistemology for fostering transformative learning in holistic nursing education and practice. Holist Nurs Pract. 2001 Oct; 16(1):21-9.
  4. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/
  5. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - http://www.iep.utm.edu/epistemo/


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