Intuition and expertise: comments on the Benner debate


  • John Paley MA

    1. Principal Research Fellow, Institute for Health Services Research, University of Luton, 24 Crawley Green Road, Luton, Bedfordshire LU1 3LF, England
    Search for more papers by this author


The rift between ‘science’ and ‘phenomenology’ in current nursing theory is explored through an examination of two recent evaluations of the work of Patricia Benner, who has proposed a model of skill acquisition, latterly within a Heideggerian framework English offers a critique of Benner's ideas from the perspective of cognitive psychology, while Darbyshire defends them against what he describes as a ‘positivist’ attack No attempt is made, in this paper, to evaluate Benner's work directly, but Darbyshire's response to the ‘critique’ is analysed, and it is noted that, in making his defence, he invokes a network of concepts which he ascribes to a ‘traditional notion of objective science’, and accuses English of subscribing to it. It is suggested that this ‘Cartesian’ worldview is an outmoded myth, superseded by the philosophy of science during the last 30 years, and based on the rhetoric rather than the reality of scientific practice Nursing is not, therefore, obliged to choose between ‘positivism’ and a philosophy whose chief virtue is that it represents a ‘challenge’ to positivism It could instead build a scientific basis for research and theory by drawing, not on mid-century thinking, but on a more contemporary understanding of the nature of science