Contemporary nursing wisdom in the UK and ethical knowing: difficulties in conceptualising the ethics of nursing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Joan Curzio
  • Graham Carr
  • Louise Terry

Colleges, School and Institutes


This paper's philosophical ideas are developed from a General Nursing Council for England and Wales Trust-funded study to explore nursing knowledge and wisdom and ways in which these can be translated into clinical practice and fostered in junior nurses. Participants using Carper's (1978) ways of knowing as a framework experienced difficulty conceptualizing a link between the empirics and ethics of nursing. The philosophical problem is how to understand praxis as a moral entity with intrinsic value when so much of value seems to be technical and extrinsic depending on desired ends. Using the Aristotelian terms poesis and praxis can articulate the concerns that the participants as well as Carper (1978) and Dreyfus (in Flyvbjerg, 1991) among others share that certain actions or ways of knowing important for nursing are being devalued and deformed by the importance placed on quantitative data and measurable outcomes. The sense of praxis is a moralized one and most of what nurses do is plausibly on any account of normative ethics a morally good thing; the articulation of the idea of praxis can go some way in showing how it is a part of the discipline of nursing. Nursing's acts as poesis can be a part of how practitioners come to have praxis as phronesis or practical wisdom. So to be a wise nurse, one needs be a wise person.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-56
Number of pages7
JournalNursing Philosophy
Issue number1
Early online date31 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • epistemology, nursing, praxis