Philosophical understanding of science, Science as...

Philosophical understanding of science

As a result of studying this chapter, the master student must:


• Specificity of the philosophical understanding of science;

• the essence of the basic approaches to understanding science as a kind of activity;

• features and characteristics of science as a social institution;

• The place of science in the system of culture and the characterization of science as a phenomenon of culture;

• the essence of the categories "science", "scientific knowledge", "social institution", "science as a phenomenon of culture";

be able to

use philosophical approaches to analyze specific sciences, including social work theory;

• Identify the essence of the epistemological and methodological problems of scientific knowledge;

• characterize the essence of the main problems of the theory of social work;


• the categorial apparatus of epistemology and the methodology of science;

• skills of philosophical analysis of scientific theories.

Before detailing the basic concepts of the philosophy of science, it is necessary to first consider its object and find out what science is as a social phenomenon. The complex structure of the essence of science generates a number of scientific approaches to its study and a system of points of view on its specifics. In particular, the following approaches to its investigation can be singled out:

- science as a phenomenon of culture;

- science as a kind of cognitive activity;

- science as a social institution;

- science as a collection of scientific texts;

- science as a collection of artifacts;

- science as a specific kind of intellectual activity;

- science as a form of social consciousness;

- science as a collection of research teams;

- science as a factor of socio-economic, social, spiritual development;

- Science as a way of self-realization and self-affirmation of the person;

- Science as a set of subjects of scientific and cognitive activity.

Obviously, the list of various hypostases of science is not exhausted. Consider three of these approaches, to some extent used in the philosophy of science. These are approaches that view science as a kind of cognitive activity, as a social institution and as a specific sphere of culture.

Science as a cognitive activity

Consideration of science as a specific type of cognitive activity is dominant for the philosophy of science and especially for the methodology of science.

The difference between science and other forms of human cognitive activity seems intuitively understandable. However, a clear description of the specific features of science proves to be a rather difficult task. This is evidenced by the diversity of definitions of science, as well as discussions on the problem of demarcation between science and other forms of cognition.

Scientific knowledge, like other forms of spiritual production, is ultimately necessary in order to regulate human activity, to ensure the reproduction of the basic systems of human relations. Different kinds of cognition fulfill this role in different ways, and analysis of this difference serves as the first and necessary condition for identifying features of scientific knowledge.

As a way of knowing science arises from the practical activities of people and is a direct continuation of everyday, spontaneously empirical cognition. It was within the framework and through this consciousness that people comprehended the properties and attitudes of things necessary for them in practical life. The basis of such knowledge is the so-called common sense. In the simplest cases common sense proves sufficient for everyday knowledge of objects and phenomena that occur in the everyday practical activity of a person, for the orientation of a person in the world around him.

However, common sense is insolvent in cases where it has to go beyond ordinary life and practice. F. Engels (1820-1895) very accurately noted in connection with this that "common sense of humanity, a very respectable companion in the four walls of his household, is experiencing the most amazing adventures, only he dares to go to the wide expanse of research."

Although common sense is oriented towards the objectively real existence of the world that surrounds man, although he rejects more often than not the presence in the surrounding world of supernatural forces, but such representations are based more on faith than on evidentiary knowledge. In fact, everyday knowledge is an unsystematic, random set of simple inductive generalizations, obtained as a result of everyday observations and practical results.

Unlike common sense, science, emerging from practice, is ahead of the latest in the development of new real-world objects.

Science can achieve such results because it begins to build theoretical models of real objects with abstract and ideal models. Such models relatively correctly reflect the real properties and relationships of the studied objects. The correctness of scientific models will be turned out not so much with the help of direct practice, but rather through the specially created for this experimental method. Logical corollaries, which are derived from the ideal model, are directly compared with the results of experiments.

In case of refutation of empirical consequences, the model is either rejected or subject to fundamental revision and correction. At the same time, when confirming the consequences, we can speak only about the relative truth of the theoretical model, since the consequences of the hypotheses are, as a rule, not reliable, but only probabilistic, or plausible. To search for and verify new truths in science, special theoretical and empirical methods are used, material and technical means of observation and measurement - various instruments and experimental installations.

The main system-forming factors that contribute to the transformation of science into the most important way of cognitive activity are the following:

- the orientation of science on the objective nature of the laws of the subjects, phenomena and events studied;

- the reality of the laws of the phenomena being studied, which makes it possible to clearly distinguish the object of their knowledge;

- advanced research of objects not covered by current practice; thanks to this it becomes possible to explore not only the properties and relationships of things that occur in the existing practice, but also those potentially possible objects that have not yet been mastered by social practice.

At the same time, science itself works in such areas of research that serve not only today's practice, but the results of which can only be used in the practice of the future. One of the creators of quantum mechanics, the French physicist Louis de Broglie (1892-1987) remarked on this occasion: "Great discoveries, even those made by researchers who did not have any practical application in mind and deal exclusively with the theoretical solution of problems, quickly found themselves then used in technical field. Of course, Planck, when he first wrote the formula now bearing his name, did not at all think about lighting equipment. But he did not doubt that his enormous efforts of thought would enable us to understand and anticipate a large number of phenomena that will be used quickly and in ever increasing quantities by lighting equipment. Something similar happened to me. I was extremely surprised when I saw that the ideas I developed very quickly find specific applications in the technique of electron diffraction and electron microscopy. "

Thus, objectivity, objectivity and focus of research on the discovery of all new phenomena and processes of nature and society give scientific knowledge the necessary integrity and unity, turning science into a system of objectively true and logically interrelated concepts, judgments, laws and theories. These same assumptions determine the almost universal nature of the application of science, since its methods and methods of research can be used to study a wide variety of subjects, phenomena and processes, starting from the simplest, mechanical movement and ending with the most complicated socio-economic and humanitarian processes.

However, a strictly objective approach is limited in those areas of research where it is necessary to take into account the subjective side of people's activities, their feelings, emotions, goals, motives and assessments. That is why, along with scientific methods of cognition, there are other ways and techniques that are commonly called unscientific and which are used, for example, in art, politics, philosophy, religion and other forms of social consciousness .

Thus, in art, the most important means of mastering reality is the artistic image in which the objective and subjective act in an indissoluble unity and assume sensually-emotional an assessment of the phenomena or events depicted. In the economic, social, political and other spheres of human activity, along with the corresponding objective laws, subjective factors must be taken into account: goals, interests, aspirations, will and motives of people's behavior.

The nature of scientific knowledge and knowledge can be visually and systematically represented in comparison with unscientific forms of knowledge. Since everyday cognition is the most common in the life of society, we compare science with this form of human cognitive activity (Table 2.1).

Table 2.1. Specificity of scientific knowledge





Everyday Knowledge



Purpose of learning




The depth of cognition

Phenomenon level

Entity level, reflected in laws


The subject of cognition


Professional Explorer


The way knowledge is justified

Habit, faith, individual experience, authority

Proof: theoretical and empirical


The way knowledge is organized

Elemental, patchwork the nature of combining knowledge fragments

Desire for the consistency of the system of scientific knowledge


The way knowledge is mastered

Developed spontaneously, by itself

The result of intense, purposeful work, as a rule, in specialized institutions: educational institutions, laboratories, archives, scientific expeditions, etc.


Way of expression

Everyday natural language

Specialized Language of Science


The presence of a specialized institute


Science as a social institution

Analysis of the table shows the essential specifics of scientific knowledge and scientific knowledge.

1. Science is practically the only form of cognitive activity aimed at comprehending objective truth. Truth is the main goal of scientific cognition. In contrast, in everyday life, the main criterion is often benefit. In this case, the momentary individual benefit is often achieved by misleading the interlocutor, i.e. through direct lie (students and undergraduates such an option in ordinary language is called "excuse"). We do not address the issue of the long-term consequences of such a lie.

Some other forms of cognitive activity are not truth-oriented. So, the goal of ethical cognition is good, aesthetic consciousness is beautiful. True, sometimes they speak of "artistic truth", but this is only a figurative expression, which has nothing in common with the truth of science. Moreover, if art were oriented toward truth in the scientific sense, it would be simply impossible: for example, Anna Karenina would not have had the right to exist, since there was no such woman in real life.

The orientation of science to the study of such objects that can be included in the activity (either actual or potentially as possible objects of the future transformation), and their study as obeying objective laws functioning and development constitute the main feature of scientific knowledge. It is this feature that distinguishes scientific knowledge from other forms of human cognitive activity. Thus, an artistic image is a reflection of an object, fused with a subjective imprint of the personality of the creator of this image, his value orientations. In science, the features of the personality creating knowledge, its value judgments do not include directly in the content of the produced knowledge. If in the portraits of Rembrandt's brush depicted the personality and attitude of Rembrandt himself, the laws of I. Kepler do not allow directly to judge the attitude of I. Kepler himself.

2. Specificity of common sense consists in that it reflects the surrounding world at the level of phenomena. This and its dignity, and its lack. The superficiality of cognition, the lack of its depth, ensures a quick response in the surrounding world, but deprives such a response of solidity, so common sense loses the functions of a vital reference beyond the everyday world.

Science fulfills its cognitive tasks only when it manages to discover the laws of the phenomenon under study. However, through laws the essence phenomena of nature and society are expressed, the essential level of cognition is the prerogative of science alone.

3. The subject of scientific and cognitive activity is either an individual or collective producer of knowledge, and the qualities of such a subject depend on the type of cognitive activity. The ordinary cognition subject is an ordinary philistine, including a scientist, when he leaves the walls of his institution and immerses himself in everyday life or tries to solve problems that lie outside his professional competence.

To engage in scientific activity, especially in modern science, a thorough preparation is needed, the researcher requires a whole complex of qualities, not only cognitive, but also moral and ethical. In this connection, the subject of scientific activity (when it comes to effective, fruitful scientific activity) is a trained professional researcher. Of course, a technically incompetent person can also be formally listed as a researcher.

4. Often, drawing a boundary between ordinary and scientific knowledge, argue that the former is not justified, and the second is justified. This is not entirely true, because unreasonable knowledge is not actually perceived by the subject, is not preserved in his consciousness. Another thing is that the ways of substantiating knowledge are different.

Ordinary knowledge becomes the property of the individual when it is substantiated by means such as personal experience, habit, authority influence, faith, etc. However, such justification methods are fragile: the influence of one authority can be replaced by the influence of another, the belief in "green men" can be replaced by faith in the "blue men" and others

Scientific knowledge is substantiated in a fundamentally different way. Even ancient Greek philosophy developed methods of theoretical substantiation of scientific knowledge; A striking example is the syllogistics of Aristotle. G. Galilei, who became the founder of experimental natural science and developed the principles of empirical substantiation of scientific knowledge, made a revolution in the notion of ways to substantiate scientific knowledge.

5. The way organization is fundamentally different. Ordinary knowledge is a complex conglomerate of experienced knowledge, opinions, rumors, prejudices, stereotypes, etc. At the same time, many components of everyday knowledge contradict each other. So, on the one hand, there is a saying in United States culture "you can easily pull out the fish from the pond", on the other hand, the heroes of United States fairy tales are Emelya, for whom the pike works, the frog princess, for which the "nurse-moms" work ; and others

What is important is that ordinary consciousness calmly treats such contradictions and does not seek to eliminate them. Moreover, in everyday communication there are arguments for justifying completely opposite judgments.

For scientific knowledge, another situation is significant: any theoretical and logical contradiction is a signal that this piece of knowledge is "underdeveloped", it requires additional verification and justification or a new explanation. Thus, the planetary model of the E. Rutherford atom (developed in 1911) (1871-1937) came into conflict with the laws of electrodynamics. An electron rotating around an atomic nucleus, according to these laws, was supposed to radiate energy and inevitably fall on the nucleus. It took the talent and exploratory courage of N. Bohr (1885-1962), who was able to resolve this contradiction by putting forward a postulate about stationary orbits of electron rotation. Being in such an orbit, the electron does not emit energy. Passing from one stationary orbit to another, the electron emits a portion (quantum) of energy.

Thus, N. Bohr succeeded not only in resolving the contradiction of the planetary model of E. Rutherford's atom but also in providing a theoretical basis for the discovery of M. Planck who established that the thermal energy of an absolutely black body is radiated not continuously but in batches by quanta.

This example shows that the internal contradictions of science are one of the significant sources of its development.

6. The methods of mastering various types of knowledge are fundamentally different. Ordinary knowledge is absorbed spontaneously, as though "by itself", at least for its assimilation, neither special efforts nor specialized institutions are required. As a rule, it is absorbed in the process of everyday communication, everyday communication.

The assimilation of scientific knowledge is the result of special intense work, as a rule, in specialized institutions: educational institutions, laboratories, archives, scientific expeditions, etc. In this regard, one should not be mistaken for those students, undergraduates, graduate students who believe that You can master the training courses on lecture notes without opening a textbook. Even the textbook, by virtue of its specifics, is a book not about in science, but about science. For a truly profound mastery of science, a thorough study of real scientific texts is necessary: ​​articles, monographs, reports on research work, materials of scientific conferences, real scientific research, etc.

7. Everyday, everyday knowledge is expressed through a natural language, the wealth of which is expressed in its polysemantic character, i.e. the ambiguity of his words and expressions. In a natural language an important role is played also by non-verbal means of expression. So, said with a certain intonation, the word "yes" can mean no & quot ;. For a scientific language, the ambiguity of terms is unacceptable, since scientific texts should ensure the unity of its understanding by various readers. By virtue of this science use artificial languages, the terms of which are strictly unambiguous, and the logic of presentation provides consistency of texts.

A vivid example of an artificial scientific language is the language of mathematics. Other sciences are developing their system of terms, so the specific feature of the communication function of the language of science is that it promotes unity of understanding for the subjects whose communication occurs in this language.

8. Finally, the formation and development of scientific knowledge occurs within a specialized social institute science. It is within the framework of this institute that research scientists are trained, the process of scientific cognition is organized, and the results of scientific research are introduced into social practice. The system of relations developing around the process of production and reproduction of scientific knowledge is too complex for this process to be carried out without a specialized social institution.

Thus, the essence of science is reduced not so much to the truths already known, but to the search for new truths, to research activities, aimed at understanding the laws of nature and society. At the same time, scientific knowledge acts in the process of such activity as:

- of the original, to a certain extent "raw", the material of science (for example, the model of the atom of E. Rutherford served as the "material" for the formation of the model of the N. Bohr atom );

- the intellectual tools of science (the model of N. Bohr's atom became a tool for explaining the essence of the discovery of M. Planck);

- result of scientific knowledge (the model of N. Bohr's atom is the result of scientific research not only of the author of this model, but of his numerous predecessors, including M. Faraday, J Maxwell, JJ Thomson, E. Rutherford, G. Geiger and many others).

Also We Can Offer!

Other services that we offer

If you don’t see the necessary subject, paper type, or topic in our list of available services and examples, don’t worry! We have a number of other academic disciplines to suit the needs of anyone who visits this website looking for help.

How to ...

We made your life easier with putting together a big number of articles and guidelines on how to plan and write different types of assignments (Essay, Research Paper, Dissertation etc)