general conception of field of inquiry



Source: Carper, B. A. (1978). Fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing. ANS, 1 (1): 13–24. Reprinted with permission from and copyright © 1978 Aspen Publishers, Inc


Fundamental Patterns of Knowing in Nursing

Barbara A. Carper, RN, EdD

It is the general conception of any field of inquiry that ultimately determines the kind of knowledge the field aims to develop as well as the manner in which that knowledge is to be organized, tested, and applied. The body of knowledge that serves as the rationale for nursing practice has patterns, forms, and structure that serve as horizons of expecta- tions and exemplify characteristic ways of thinking about phenomena. Understanding these patterns is essential for the teaching and learning of nursing. Such an understanding does not extend the range of knowledge, but rather involves critical attention to the ques- tion of what it means to know and what kinds of knowledge are held to be of most value in the discipline of nursing.

Identifying Patterns of Knowing

Four fundamental patterns of knowing have been identified from an analysis of the conceptual and syntactical structure of nurs- ing knowledge.

1 The four patterns are distin-

guished according to logical type of meaning and designated as (1) empirics, the science of nursing; (2) esthetics, the art of nursing; (3) the component of a personal knowledge in nursing; and (4) ethics, the component of moral knowledge in nursing.

Empirics: The Science of Nursing

The term nursing science was rarely used in the literature until the late 1950s. However,

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