applied Science

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The term applied science refers to scientific disciplines and sub-disciplines that, in addition to their basic research, have an important focus on practical application .


The term goes back to Aristotle . In his metaphysics he discusses the scientific character of natural science and states:

“[…] Πᾶσα διάνοια ἢ πρακτικὴ ἢ ποιητικὴ ἢ θεωρητική […]”

"All thinking reflection concerns either the acting life or the producing activity or moves in pure theory"

- Metaphysics , Chapter 1, III. Classification and object of science

The classical division of the sciences into:

  • πρακτική practice - science of acting life, practical science (with Aristotle about ethics and politics)
  • ποιητική poietike - science of the producing activity, (today mostly :) poietic science , producing science
  • θεωρητική theory - science that moves in pure theory, theoretical sciences (with Aristotle physics, mathematics, metaphysics)

Until the early modern times, the basic sciences including technology were summarized as art , as an overall concept of knowledge and skills, cultural techniques (cf. for example the muses Urania for astronomy, Calliope for poetry, philosophy and science; and art for plant construction in mining or Water art ). Only in the Enlightenment does the scientific self-image differentiate itself.

Today, “practice” is usually understood to mean the application itself, that is, the Aristotelian concept of poietike (such as arithmetic as such or the everyday work of a doctor ), and speaks of “applied” science and “theoretical” science. The established term is problematic in that it only reflects a sub-area of ​​the task area, the application of theoretical knowledge ( basic research and internal specialist knowledge ). Mostly in every science there is a theoretical and an applied branch, more or less sharply separated. In some subjects there is a tradition of strangeness between purpose-oriented research and “pure” science.

Aristotle already discussed the difference between the acquisition of knowledge for the sake of application and for its own sake in the introduction to the work (1st starting point and goal of science ), in particular with regard to mathematics, physics and metaphysics - as a search for knowledge that  goes beyond the purely physical - as most theoretical of all sciences. In the context of the financial viability of science, however, the “ l'art pour l'art ” and the “ ivory tower ” of theory without a look at application have become a point of criticism.

To today's concept of applied science

Subjects such as school pedagogy , youth psychology , social work , business administration , agricultural or engineering sciences are mainly used . The self-image of a subject as applied science is, however, determined by the history of culture and science . In that the engineering sciences are expressly linked to the applied sciences, they distinguish themselves from the disciplines that are mostly understood as basic subjects, such as mathematics and physics. Within these basic subjects, however, there are also areas of work that understand themselves as applied mathematics or applied physics . On interdisciplinary issues which are applied linguistics and applied computer science oriented. Areas of science such as jurisprudence or human medicine , with their mostly practice-related disciplines, also count among the applied sciences, without being labeled as such.

In general usage, the term applied science - or applied scientific discipline - serves to distinguish it from pure basic research. Applied research or applied research is understood to mean all activities in the field of research that have the main purpose of generating new knowledge or combining existing knowledge up to concrete methodological problem solutions in technology and economy ( research and development sector ). The initial scientific question is closely related to practice. The newly acquired knowledge immediately flows back into practice and thus benefits an area of ​​use directly or indirectly. Questions of practice and everyday life also form new disciplines (such as the agricultural sciences on agriculture and forestry or theoretical physics ), interdisciplinary collecting and intersecting areas (such as life sciences ) or completely new applications of formerly more theoretical or taxonomically oriented branches (such as geographic information in the Geosciences, space science as an offshoot of astronomy).

In most cases, such split-off disciplines quickly re-develop applied and theoretical branches themselves (e.g. experimental physics in theoretical physics or crystal morphology as basic research in materials science).

Universities of applied sciences in the German-speaking area, for example, have been allowed to add an English or French subtitle to their name since the 1990s, such as University of Applied Sciences . In connection with the switch to the international Bachelor and Master degree programs, the “Universities of Applied Sciences (FH)” officially became “Universities of Applied Sciences (HAW)”. This designation also makes it clear that this type of university focuses specifically on application-oriented courses and application-related research.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Translation according to Aristotle: Metaphysik , p. 167. Digital Library Volume 2: Philosophy , p. 4243;
    cited (original text and translation) according to theory, theoretical, theorem, consider - θεωρία, θεωρέω , text passage Aristot.Met.1025b18-1026a19 in Egon and Gisela Gottwein: Greek dictionary , last update: March 6, 2013;
    see. Chapter in the trans. Adolf Lasson, 1907 , on, there (p.) [85], 1st paragraph.
  2. ^ Translated from Adolf Lasson, 1907 , on