The Participant Philosophy in Nursing Science

Virginia Peterson Tilden, Stephen Tilden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The central thesis of this article is that scientific rigor is necessary but not sufficient to address the broad human issues that challenge the nursing profession. The pursuit of scientific rigor has led nurse researchers away from personal engagement in the issues they wish to study. Clinical scholarship demands active engagement in the practice arena. Three modes of knowledge acquisition–quantitative, qualitative, and personal–are identified and discussed in the context of Pirsig's 1974 “participant philosophy.” A structure explaining the relationships between each of the major modes of knowledge acquisition is presented. Summary A philosophic model that interrelates three modes of knowledge acquisition in nursing has been presented. The purpose of the model is to form what Pirsig called “quality,” which parallels Plato's “that which is good” and the Greek concept of “virtue” or “excellence.” One major idea is that the search for “reality” must be de fined in human terms rather than in terms of a reality that is imagined to exist outside of human perception. The second major idea is that quantitative and qualitative research methodologies must be combined with individual personal knowledge by individual participation in all modes of knowledge acquisition. Nurse researchers must become involved in deciding what ought to be by participating in the environments that they study. This means that they must practice nursing as well as observe practice, that they must take responsibility for their own actions in research and in practice as well as recording the behavior of others. By conducting research while avoiding personal engagement, a person risks being merely a spectator of the human process, and thus risks producing trivial results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-90
Number of pages3
JournalImage: the Journal of Nursing Scholarship
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The Participant Philosophy in Nursing Science'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this