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Husserl's theory of wholes and parts and the methodology of nursing research

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Whenever the name Edmund Husserl appears in the context of nursing research, what correctly comes to mind is the phenomenological approach to qualitative methodology. Husserl is not only considered the founder of phenomenology, but his broad concept development also contributed to the demise of positivism and inspired fruitful approaches to the social sciences. In this spirit of inspiration, it must be expressed that Husserl's theory of wholes and parts, and particularly his differentiation of parts into ‘pieces’ and ‘moments’, is very helpful in guiding the selection of research methods across the board in nursing science. The purpose of this paper is to highlight a frame of reference for nursing researchers to use in examining the essential nature of that which is being studied. This frame of reference is the Husserlian philosophy of ‘pieces’ and ‘moments’ in relation to the whole. ‘Pieces’ are independent parts of the whole that are subject to isolability in study, whereas ‘moments’ are nonindependent parts, which cannot be detached, presented, or studied apart from the whole. The intent is to propose this frame of reference as a philosophical base from which nursing researchers may better select among paradigms and methodological approaches in regard to the essential nature (‘pieces’ or ‘moments’) of that which they are researching.
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Keywords: Husserl; Husserl and nursing paradigms; Husserl and nursing research methods; nursing philosophy; nursing research methods; philosophy and nursing research

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Professor, Department of Philosophy, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA

Publication date: 01 October 2004

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