Positivism and Naturalism Paradigms in Modern Nursing

Nursing has been influenced by such basic philosophical directions as positivism and naturalism. It should be stressed that these two dominant aspects built paradigms used in nursing practice. Scientists tend to use these basic aspects as the background for their medical researches and studies.

The paradigm of naturalism takes the approach confirming that objective and measurable reality apart from the researcher cannot exist. The research and the researcher are to function together. This paradigm shows that social life is not considered to be rational and orderly; the knowledge of human beings is relative and tends to change with time. (Williams, 2007) Naturalism is closely connected with the study of the things in their natural state and situations understanding.

Research approaches of the naturalism paradigm strive to capture not a part of the picture but the whole vision. This paradigm is considered to be very important in medicine; it helps to understand the patients, their predicaments, and relatives who suffer chronic illnesses or are just in the state of recovering. (Whall, 2002)

In contrast to naturalism, positivism is considered to be a kind of doctrine stating that sense perceptions seem to be the unique basis of precise thought and human knowledge. The only true knowledge is the scientific one it means that this knowledge is proved by experience and facts. The supporters of this major paradigm believe that there is only one reality viewed in the same way by people, or, for example, every question has only one answer.

This paradigm is regarded to be the quantitative one. (Playle, 2006). This paradigm is very important for biological scientists and nursing on the whole. The scientists tend to believe in the scientific method and support the idea that one ultimate reality existence representing one truth for everyone. The positivist paradigm is widely used in the theory and practice of applied health sciences. (Clark, 1998)

Thus, the comparative analysis of two dominant paradigms showed that they are very contradictory. The naturalism paradigm confirms that knowledge cannot be a constant unit and the science tends to change with place and time; while the positivist paradigm believes in the power of knowledge which is considered to be fixed without depending on-time development. Nevertheless, both aspects are very important parts of modern nursing and medicine on the whole as they serve the background of many medical types of research and practice peculiarities.


Clark, A. (1998). Moving from positivism to post positivism. Journal of Advanced Nursing. Volume 27. Blackwell Publishing.

Playle, J. (2006). Humanism and Positivism in nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing. England.

Williams, L. (2007). Advances in Nursing Science. State of the Science. 52-60. N.Y.

Whall, A. (2002). The Unrecognized Paradigm Shift in Nursing. Education Resources Information Center. Nursing Outlook.