Wissenschaft is the German language term for any study that involves systematic research. The term is sometimes roughly translated as science, although Wissenschaft is much broader and includes every systematic academic study of any area, for example, humanities like art or religion. Wissenschaft incorporates scientific and non-scientific inquiry, learning, knowledge, scholarship and implies that knowledge is a dynamic process discoverable for oneself, rather than something that is handed down. It did not necessarily imply empirical research.
Wissenschaft was the official ideology of German universities during the 19th century, and it led to the development of the modern research university. It emphasized the unity of teaching and individual research or discovery by the student, the Einheit von Lehre und Forschung. It suggests that education is a process of growing and becoming.
Some 19th-century Americans visiting German universities interpreted Wissenschaft as meaning "pure science," untainted by social purposes and opposed to the liberal arts.
Before Immanuel Kant published his Critique of Judgment in 1790, the "schöne Wissenschaft" (roughly, "fine sciences") were highly regarded. The "schöne Wissenshaft" included poetry, rhetoric, and other subjects that were meant to promote an understanding of truth, beauty, and goodness. Kant argued that aesthetic judgments were not an area of systematic knowledge, and therefore were outside the realm of Wissenschaft.
Compared to science
Although Wissenschaft and science were roughly comparable words in previous centuries, the word science in English "has narrowed its meaning incomparably, whereas Wissenschaft...has retained its broad meaning". In modern English, the word science refers to systematically acquired, objective knowledge that is about a particular subject (the workings of the natural world, including the people in it) and produced through a particular methodology (the scientific method), in a progressive, iterative process that builds on previous knowledge. Wissenschaft, by contrast, encompasses knowledge of objects as well as truths, such as what it means to be good.
The difficulties of being precise about knowledge are one reason why English is not considered well-suited for discussions about epistemology, and terms from other languages, notably Latin and German, are commonly used.
Phrases employing this term include the following:
- Hansson, Sven Ove (2017). Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 ed.). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
- Bommel, Bas van (2015-12-14). "Between 'Bildung' and 'Wissenschaft': The 19th-Century German Ideal of Scientific Education German Education and Science". Europäische Geschichte Online. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
- R., Veysey, Laurence (1970) . The emergence of the American university. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226854558. OCLC 8232894.
- "Our Narrow Definition of "Science"". www.samharris.org. 2014-01-14. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
- Sundholm, Göran (2014), "The Vocabulary of Epistemology, with Observations on Some Surprising Shortcomings of the English Language", Mind, Values, and Metaphysics, Springer International Publishing, pp. 203–208, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-05146-8_13, ISBN 9783319051451