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A case for the ‘middle ground’: exploring the tensions of postmodern thought in nursing

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Diverse beliefs about the nature and essence of scientific truth are pervasive in the nursing literature. Most recently, rejection of a more traditional and objective truth has resulted in a shift toward an emphasis on the acceptance of multiple and subjective truths. Some nursing scholars have discarded the idea that objective truth exists at all, but instead have argued that subjective truth is the only knowable truth and therefore the one that ought to govern nursing's disciplinary inquiry. Yet, there has been relatively little critical debate or dialogue about the implications of adopting subjective and multiple truths as a maxim to govern the discipline. In this paper we examine what it might mean to adopt subjective forms of truth as the only knowable truths for nursing, and to accept the possibility of multiple co-existing realities. We understand the implications of such a philosophical stance for the epistemological basis of a practice science to be considerable, therefore we consider what it might mean for a practice-based discipline such as nursing to remain ambiguous on the question of truth, and examine the implications of failing to achieve consensus on what constitutes a truth claim. On the basis of this examination, we urge a cautious approach to the extremes of either position and argue for a more thoughtful and rigorous dialogue about ‘truth’ and knowledge in nursing practice, education, and research.

Keywords: Kuhn; nursing education; nursing practice; nursing research; relativism; truth

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Doctoral Candidates and

Publication date: 2001-03-01

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