The role of theory-constitutive metaphor in nursing science

Greenwood, Jennifer and Bonner, Ann (2008) The role of theory-constitutive metaphor in nursing science. Nursing Philosophy, 9 3: 154-168. doi:10.1111/j.1466-769X.2008.00340.x

Author Greenwood, Jennifer
Bonner, Ann
Title The role of theory-constitutive metaphor in nursing science
Journal name Nursing Philosophy   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1466-7681
Publication date 2008-07
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/j.1466-769X.2008.00340.x
Volume 9
Issue 3
Start page 154
End page 168
Total pages 15
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
Collection year 2009
Language eng
Subject C1
440199 Philosophy not elsewhere classified
Abstract The current view of theoretical statements in science is that they should be literal and precise; ambiguous and metaphorical statements are useful only as pre-theoretical, exegetical, and heuristic devices and as pedagogical tools. In this paper we argue that this view is mistaken. Literal, precise statements apply to those experiential phenomena which can be defined either conventionally by criterial attribution or by internal atomic constitution. Experiential phenomena which are defined relationally and/or functionally, like nursing, in virtue of their nature, require metaphorical description and explanation. In such cases, metaphor is theory-constitutive. Using insights from the philosophies of language and mind, and examples from nursing practice, education, and our own empirical research, we explore the nature of metaphor and its role in theory constitution. We argue that the apparent resistance of certain experiential phenomena to literal description and explanation is not necessarily indicative of pre-theoretic linguistic imprecision. We suggest, rather, that such resistance provides useful insights into the nature of such experiential phenomena. We also suggest that the aim of scientific theory should be methodological or epistemological precision and not merely linguistic precision.
Keyword Metaphor
Homeostatic property cluster phenomena
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2009 Higher Education Research Data Collection
ERA 2012 Admin Only
School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
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Created: Thu, 03 Jul 2008, 09:52:05 EST by Ms Emma Pursey on behalf of School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry