On understanding methodology

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №9 - 2017

Author: Gusseva Nina, Doctor of Philosophy, Chair of the East Division of Kazakhstan Philosophical Congress, Head of the International Center for Methodological Research and Innovation Programs, Member of the Academy of Acmeology, Kazakhstan

The East Division of Kazakhstan Philosophical Congress, The International Center for Methodological Research and Innovation Programs, Kazakhstan

In positivistic traditions of understanding research and its foundations, “methodology” is interpreted as a functional methodical phenomenon, as a special reproducible procedure which depends only on the individual readiness of a researcher to manipulate or apply the template knowledge about template procedures. We will not deny that the latter also takes place in scientific activity, but they do not constitute its essence, but, on the contrary, oppose it.

Studying “methodology” as a sphere of recommendations for the use of ready-made knowledge and the use of methods means its reduction to an empirical level. At this level, it cannot serve as the basis for understanding the laws of the object of research, and the form of its inclusion in the study is transformed to the role of the technique. At this level, the maximum achievements fit into the requirements of systematizing the accumulated empirical data and obtaining trajectories of visible changes within the framework of projections of data already available, identified in the empirical study [1].

In the context of the metaphysical positivist tradition, methodology is viewed as an array of empirical mandatory procedures and actions with methods, ready knowledge and related objects in scientific research. Thinking, at the same time, is understood as a “procedural” accompaniment. These procedures and actions are either of specific or of general character, and in this form they are used as “matrices”, samples and, some kind of “foundations” on which the research is constructed. The “matrices” and the samples precede the research, existing outside and prior to it.

This raises the problems of their application and questions related to understanding what research is and what the research outcomes are in this or that case. This problem consists, first, in determining the limits of applicability of various methods, available knowledge, procedures and related objects in the study; secondly, in determining truth, objectivity, etc. of the research conducted with the use of certain procedures and methods. This problem emerges whenever there is an attempt to implement and interpret scientific research from the point of view of the empirical approach. The empirical approach to scientific research and to the assessment of the state of science development in general, expresses the repeated standards of the so-called logics of interactions.

By the standard of interaction logics we understand the research areas as an object to be influenced by external factors and the existence of response reactions produced by the object, which become the research field for a scientist. In this case, the integrity of the object, its internal processes do not become the object of awareness and cognitive orientation. The “logic of interaction” leaves the orientation of research on the cognitive process as such out of focus. The researcher concerns the problem of choosing methods to use, ready knowledge or procedures, their application, and then the main concern shifts to the interpretation and verification of the received data.

It should be noted that in the procedural, external approach to research, the ready-made knowledge, techniques, methods, schemes, requirements receive the status of “proprietary” forms having independent existence, which can be manipulated without regard to the way and context of their occurrence and development. The ready knowledge, method, methodology, scheme as “proprietary” forms are not a subject of interest to those who manipulate them, since the goals and forms of manipulation may be their transfer, preservation, systematization, classification by certain parameters, and their use in ongoing processes.

Positivist empirical understanding of methodology is closely related to understanding its terminology. From the point of view of the latter, methodology is the “teaching about the method”. Recognition of the sufficiency of the terminological approach to understanding the methodology generates a formal, and therefore inadequate, attitude to it. First of all, the terminological approach emphasizes, firstly, that it is a teaching, that is, a certain system of postulates and data supplementing them. Secondly, it emphasizes the fact that it is the teaching abut the method. At the same time, it is traditionally considered that methodology as a teaching about a method is concretized by enumeration and description of methods used in scientific research, which are represented by arrays of information about them [2]. Descriptions of methods always have essentially functional and methodological character, since they concern the scope of their application as a ready-made tool. Attitude to methods as tools that can be used, applied in different situations fully corresponds to understanding methodology as a functional methodological phenomenon. It is accompanied by a reduction of the essence of research methods only to their instrumental component.

In this regard, we need to note, firstly, that the reduction of the methodology to the level of methods completely “preserves” the study on an empirical level, with the predominance in it of a methodical principle, the methodological approaches as long existing tools. Secondly, the reduction of understanding methodology to the form of a speculative phenomenon completely denies the need to take into account its real significance.

Unconventional understanding of the methodology consists in recognizing it as dialectical thinking, that is, as an ideal form of object-practical activity of a creative, socially-significant and inventive character, and inherent in the process of special scientific research. Defining thinking as an activity, it is necessary to distinguish it from an understanding of thinking as sets of actions. This difference indicates factually existing levels: the ones of the mind and reason, and action and activity. These differences are of a fundamental nature.

Activity, unlike action (or systems of actions), is an entity that is not reducible to the totality of its parts [3]. Characteristics of the integrity of the activities are determined not simply by its own structure, in which there is a goal, a choice of means, implementation and obtaining the result. Definitions of activity integrity are determined by the nature of its appeal to the object and the context of its actual existence. The object, when the research uses activity approach and demonstrated interests in it, does not initially appear to him as a set of properties that must be fixed, and does not lead to consideration of the procedure for fixing both the purpose and essence of the research process. Realization of research as a system of actions makes it situational, finite and results only in various object descriptions of the, but not the disclosure of its essence.

Dialectical version of understanding methodology from the outset focuses on the identification of both - logic as a separate research process, and logic of the development of science as a whole. It is about a single logic of the processes of interrelations, inherent in the world and human being, which are reflected in the cognitive process, the essence of which is manifested in the existence of science.

If the task of the study is to identify the essence of the object, and not just describe it, systematize its elements, generalize and verify, then the research that could satisfy this task should be oriented toward identifying the method of formation of the research object. This means that such a method should reproduce the conditions for the existence of the object of research in the context in which it occurs as such, its relationship to this context, its integrity, internal contradictions, and the like. Such a method should be an activity in which the researcher will move along the logic of the object under investigation, and not along the systems of procedural actions committed without regard for the integrity of the object.

Addressing the question of the prospects and ways of science development has become extremely relevant today. This is explained by the fact that modern development, state and possibilities of dialectical logic - the logic of thinking - allow us to make the pathway taken by the science the subject of research. This allows reducing the time spent on wandering, methodological deadlocks and delusions in the studies themselves. Adequate comprehension of the foundations of science and scientific research becomes a condition for revealing the ways for its further development. These opportunities are directly connected with dialectical thinking, with dialectical logic, with dialectics.

Dialectics as a logic, as a theory of knowledge is also a methodology that expresses the laws of dialectical thinking in the process of studying the objective world of nature and society. Understanding dialectics as a methodological phenomenon and a process of its realization is necessary for the scientist in order not to slide down the path of “trial and error”, to a path of misunderstanding of what is happening, and therefore to a path of not understanding the next steps in revealing the essence and forms of manifestation of the subject of research [4].

Reduction of methodology to the matrix interpretation programs an unacceptable substitution in the consideration of the unity of scientific knowledge in the scientific picture of the world by the question of its integration. Analysis of integration processes, carried out on the basis of a “matrix” interpretation of the methodology, leads to singling out structural and functional changes in the “adjacent” areas of science. At the same time, the problem of the unity of science and scientific knowledge as such remains outside of consideration. The integrative tendency in understanding the logic and fate of science and scientific knowledge confirms the absolutization of the empirical approach. This is not a positive feature, but, on the contrary, it characterizes the dead-end line of understanding the processes of development of science and its theoretical-cognitive foundations. “The interrelation existing between science and the theory of knowledge has a remarkable character. - A. Einstein noted, - They depend on each other. The theory of knowledge without contact with science degenerates into an empty scheme. Science without the theory of knowledge (as far as it is generally conceivable) becomes primitive and confused” [5].

The unity of sciences and scientific knowledge can be established if we prove a specific unity of the methods of formation of research objects and approaches as a unity of the diverse, on the basis of which these methods have been determined. Here we speak, in fact, about revealing the logic of its development. The expectation of a single scientific picture of the world is not accidental or unimportant for the fate of all science as a cultural phenomenon. On the contrary, the creation of a single scientific picture of the world is a condition for the discovery of new opportunities for science and human knowledge in general.


1. Popper, K. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. М., 1983, С. 35; Kun, T. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. М.: Progress, 1977; Feierabend, P. Selected Works in Methodology of Science. М.: progress, 1986, etc.

2. Graduations by methods, for example, which are known to include special scientific, general scientific and general methods relating to the principles of the realization and organization of scientific knowledge, etc., are accompanied by a large number of descriptions designed to specify their features and capabilities when applied to various scientific research.

3. For a better understanding of this irreducibility of activity to sets of actions, one can recall the image of the artist Raphael painting his Madonna. So, to paint a picture, he had to carry out a lot of actions: prepare canvas, paints, brushes, etc. But all of them together do not determine what is the painted masterpiece. They all here together express the necessary systems of Raphael’s action. But neither together nor separately have they characterized his artistic holistic activity, in the process of which he worked and created his masterpiece. In other words, activity cannot be identified with a system of actions.

4. Ilenkov, E.V. Lenin's dialectic and metaphysics of positivism. (Reflections on V.I. Lenin’s book "Materialism and Empiriocriticism"). M.: Politizdat, 1980; Gusseva, N.V. Dialectics and metaphysics in the modern public consciousness: on the formulation of the problems // Proceedings of the XVI International Scientific Conference "Ilyenkov’s Readings", Moscow, 2015. - p. 200-208.

5. Einstein, A. Collection of research works. V.4. М., 1967. - p. 310.

6. It is not a mosaic scientific picture of the world that is taking place today and which can be characterized precisely as an integrative.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №9 - 2017

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