Reinstating the ‘Queen’: understanding philosophical inquiry in nursing

Authors

  • Barbara Pesut,

    1. Barbara Pesut PhD RN
      Assistant Professor Nursing
      School of Nursing, University of British Columbia Okanagan, Kelowna, BC, Canada
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  • Joy Johnson

    1. Joy Johnson PhD RN FCAHS
      Professor, Associate Director
      Graduate Programs and Research, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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B. Pesut: e-mail: barb.pesut@ubc.ca

Abstract

Title.  Reinstating the ‘Queen’: understanding philosophical inquiry in nursing

Aim.  This paper is an introduction to the characteristics of philosophical inquiry.

Background.  Despite over a century of philosophical thinking in nursing, philosophical inquiry has yet to be positioned as contributing substantially to the field of nursing’s inquiry. There is a need to articulate the nature and characteristics of philosophical inquiry for researchers new to this perspective.

Method.  We begin by addressing a common question that surfaces when one begins a work that is philosophical in nature, how does one differentiate between nursing philosophy and nursing theory? We then address the nature and characteristics of philosophical inquiry. We conclude by considering the question of whether philosophical inquiry might be considered a form of qualitative inquiry.

Findings.  Unlike science, which relies upon investigative methods, philosophical inquiry relies upon the capacities to think and reason. Problems characteristic of philosophical inquiry include conceptual clarification, analysis of arguments and problems related to the ontology, epistemology and ethics of nursing. Although methodological approaches to philosophical inquiry are diverse, common tools include assumptions and the intellectual processes of conceptualizing, judging and reasoning within a context of wonder.

Conclusion.  Some have argued that to neglect philosophy in nursing is to place the discipline at risk. However, there is little guidance available to researchers new to this method of inquiry. By providing a beginning roadmap, our hope is that philosophical inquiry will take its place alongside scientific methods of inquiry with the goal of constructing robust knowledge for the discipline of nursing.

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