I have seen some posts about knowledge but want to explore another perspective.

Here is the sort of thing I thought, maybe you can help with a complete answer or at least give some recommendation. The question is how knowledge, in close relation with scientific knowledge, is obtained.

There are, it seems, three ways of knowledge:

  1. Observation and classification. Also comparison. It is produced when looking what unify and distinguish things. Knowledge produced by Linneo on botanics, or states of matter (gas, liquid, solid...) and so on, are examples.
  2. Causality: Understanding the cause. Some could argue: 'fire burns because of wood.' Then as you are smarter, you cover the five and it powers off. So it needs more than wood, it needs oxygen.
  3. Reductionism. Explaining from the more general point of view of deeper levels.

This naive list is not correct but that's the sort of scheme I'm looking for.


4 Answers 4


I would suggest the work of Karl Popper, in particular The Logic of Scientific Discovery and Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge

Popper argues that science should adopt a methodology based on falsifiability, because no number of experiments can ever prove a theory, but a reproducible experiment or observation can refute one. According to Popper: "non-reproducible single occurrences are of no significance to science. Thus a few stray basic statements contradicting a theory will hardly induce us to reject it as falsified. We shall take it as falsified only if we discover a reproducible effect which refutes the theory"


Nowadays, numerical simulation is a pretty new way of acquiring legitimate scientific knowledge. For example, molecular self-assembly, https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-540-85869-0_12 or http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2018/cp/c7cp06181a (or just google "molecular self-assembly numerical simulation" for lots of links). Also, for example, numerical simulations have largely taken the place of nuclear tests since the test ban treaty, e.g., http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9805/14/india.nuke.computers/index.html and https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/national-security/supercomputers-offer-tools-for-nuclear-testing--and-solving-nuclear-mysteries/2011/10/03/gIQAjnngdM_story.html


Let me suggest Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970, Chicago, University of Chicago Press). One critic wrote,

...Kuhn asserted that scientific truths depend upon agreement among scientists operating under a guiding intellectual umbrella, or paradigm, built around a core of ideas based on irrational cultural and sociopolitical factors. (Sidky, Skeptical Inquirer, Mar-Apr 2018, p. 39)

You might not agree with Kuhn, but given his influence, if you are asking how we obtain scientific knowledge, Kuhn's work is one source to consult.

  • Thanks a lot. I don't mind to disagree. In fact, it is frequently better being that I'm usually wrong ha
    – user29573
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 2:02
  • 1
    Although there is an element of truth in what Kuhn has said, the basic foundations of scientific inquiry are not based on this. To take this as a guide is to misunderstand basic science. You might want to study what is called the 'scientific method'. The scientific method is not built upon irrational or sociopolitical factors. You can start by doing a search on this forum of 'scientific method' or 'scientific methodology'. Commented May 30, 2018 at 5:02
  • @SwamiVishwananda “The scientific method is not built upon irrational or sociopolitical factors.” But Kuhn is saying that it is, and for that he is worth reading. This source has value, is all I am saying. Commented May 30, 2018 at 5:58
  • If the scientific method begins with 'axioms' or as often is written by positing something as 'given' ; in both cases it can then be demonstrated that science rests on a metaphysical claim. Both 'axioms' and 'givens' are metaphysical assertion. That is, both involve claims that their 'objects' are real. CMS
    – user37981
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 21:25
  • There is certainly more to the topic of what scientific knowledge is and how it is obtained than what is covered in Kuhn's writings, but the importance and relevance of his ideas shouldn't be down-played, because they do describe some fundamental aspects of how these issues play out in academia and society at large.
    – JonB
    Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 6:38

To start, focus the meaning of the term scientific knowledge and how it is different from the rest of knowledge (otherwise, your question would address also religious knowledge. The particularity is that scientific knowledge is the one which is obtained by means of the scientific method. Science is part of philosophy, which encompasses all forms of knowledge.

The classification presented (observation & classification; causality; reductionism) addresses multiple perspectives (equivalent to say apples are sweet, or yellow, or spherical).

Reductionism (knowledge focused on the parts), and holism (knowledge focused on the whole) are usually dialectical complements, as inductive vs. deductive knowledge, which probably suit better to the scientific category, since reductionism is normally addressed by the systems theory, that falls into the category of philosophical knowledge, not just scientific. See Von Bertalanffy, General System Theory.

Causality (knowledge corresponding to the relationships between facts in time) is not a scientific form of knowledge, and has no dialectical counterpart. Its dialectic counterpart could be any knowledge of facts which is independent of time, like mathematics, or morals. Google for "Kant, Hume, Causality".

Observation and classification, seems equivalent to ontology, which is just one of the branches of philosophical knowledge. But that is not scientific knowledge.

I'd suggest you to check the work of Mario Bunge, which covered those domains extensively as well as their relations to science.

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