Empirical and theoretical levels of scientific knowledge
There are two levels of scientific knowledge - empirical and theoretical.
The empirical level of scientific knowledge is directed to the study of phenomena (in other words, forms and modes of manifestation processes, relations), it is formed by using such methods of cognition as observation, measurement, experiment. The basic forms of existence of empirical knowledge are grouping, classification, description, systematization and generalization of the results of observation and experiment.
Empirical knowledge has a fairly complex structure, which includes four levels.
Primary level - single empirical statements, whose content is the fixation of the results of single observations; while the exact time, place and conditions of observation are fixed.
The second level of empirical knowledge is scientific facts, more precisely - a description of the facts of reality using the language of science. With the help of such tools, the absence or presence of certain events, properties, relations in the subject area under study, as well as their intensity (quantitative certainty) is affirmed. Their symbolic representations are graphs, diagrams, tables, classifications, mathematical models.
The third level of empirical knowledge is empirical patterns of various kinds (functional, causal, structural, dynamic, statistical, etc.).
The fourth level of empirical scientific knowledge is phenomenological theories as a logically interconnected set of corresponding empirical laws and facts (phenomenological thermodynamics, Kepler's celestial mechanics, periodic law of chemical elements in the formulation D. I. Mendeleyev and others). From theories in the true sense of the word, empirical theories differ in that they do not penetrate the essence of the objects under investigation, but are a empirical generalization of visually perceived things and processes.
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The theoretical level of scientific knowledge is directed to the study of entities objects, processes, relationships and relies on the results of empirical knowledge . Theoretical knowledge is the result of the activity of such a constructive part of consciousness as mind. Idealization as the leading logical operation of theoretical thinking, the goal and result of which is the construction of a special type of objects - ideal objects scientific theory (material point and "absolutely black body" in physics, "ideal type" in sociology, etc.). The interrelated set of such objects forms its own basis of theoretical scientific knowledge.
This level of scientific knowledge includes the formulation of scientific problems; the nomination and justification of scientific hypotheses and theories; the identification of laws; the derivation of logical consequences from laws; comparison with each other of different hypotheses and theories, theoretical modeling, as well as procedures for explaining, understanding, predicting, generalizing.
A number of components are distinguished in the structure of the theoretical level: laws, theories, models, concepts, teachings, principles, a set of methods. Let's briefly dwell on some of them.
The laws of science display objective, regular, repetitive, essential and necessary relationships and relationships between real-world phenomena or processes. From the point of view of the scope of action, all laws can be conditionally divided into the following types.
1. Universal and private (existential) laws. Universal laws reflect the universal, necessary, strictly repeating and stable character of the regular connection between phenomena and processes of the objective world. An example is the law of thermal expansion of bodies: All bodies with heating expand. "
Particular laws are links, either derived from universal laws, or reflecting the regularity of events that characterize some particular sphere of being. Thus, the law of thermal expansion of metals is secondary, or derivative, with respect to the universal law of thermal expansion of all physical bodies and characterizes the property of a particular group of chemical elements.
2. Deterministic and stochastic (statistical) laws. Deterministic laws give predictions that are quite reliable and accurate. Unlike them, stochastic laws give only probabilistic predictions, they reflect a certain regularity that arises from the interaction of random mass or recurring events.
3. Empirical laws and theoretical laws. Empirical laws characterize the regularities found at the level of the phenomenon within the framework of empirical (experimental) knowledge. Theoretical laws reflect repetitive connections acting at the level of essence. Among these laws, the most common are causal (causal) laws that characterize the necessary relationship between two directly related phenomena.
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At its core, scientific theory is a single, holistic system of knowledge whose elements: concepts, generalizations, axioms and laws - are bound by certain logical and content relations. Reflecting and expressing the essence of the objects under study, the theory acts as the highest form of organization of scientific knowledge.
In the structure of scientific theory, the following are distinguished: a) initial fundamental principles; b) the main system-forming concepts; c) the linguistic thesaurus, i. the norms for constructing the correct language expressions that are characteristic of the theory; d) the interpretation base, allowing to pass from the fundamental statements to a wide field of facts and observations.
In modern science, types of scientific theories are distinguished, which are classified on various grounds.
First, according to the adequacy of the mapping of the investigated field of phenomena, there are phenomenological and analytical theories. The theories of the first kind describe reality at the level of phenomena, or phenomena, without revealing their essence. Thus, geometrical optics studied the phenomena of propagation, reflection and refraction of light, without revealing the nature of the light itself. In turn, analytical theories reveal the essence of the phenomena being investigated. For example, the theory of the electromagnetic field reveals the essence of optical phenomena.
Secondly, in terms of the accuracy of predictions, scientific theories, like laws, are divided into deterministic and stochastic. Deterministic theories give accurate and reliable predictions, but because of the complexity of many phenomena and processes, the presence in the world of a significant amount of uncertainty and randomness, such theories are used rarely. Stochastic theories give probabilistic predictions based on the study of the laws of the case. Such theories are used not only in physics or biology, but also in social and human sciences, when predictions or forecasts are made about processes in which uncertainty plays a significant role, coincidence of circumstances associated with the manifestation of random events in mass events.
An important place in scientific knowledge on the theoretical level is the set of methods, among which are axiomatic, hypothetical-deductive, formalization method, idealization method, system approach, etc.
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