There are two words in Japanese that are both translated into English as “science.” My purpose in this post is to ask about the differences — and the relationships — between these words: their senses or meanings, their usage, the ideas that they signify …
[ Below the following note I will make some use of Kanji, or Han characters. The text should be understandable if you cannot see or recognize the characters, although they might be helpful for those who can read them. ]
this note courtesy of Wikipedia 漢字 Some text below on this page contains Chinese/Japanese characters. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.
I know that both “kagaku” (科学) and “rika” (理科) are translated as “science.” Are these just two different words for the same thing? I don’t think so; but I don’t fully understand the relationships and differences between them.
科学 is used in both Japanese and Chinese (kexue in Mandarin) as the general word for what’s called “science” in English.The Online Bilingual Dictionary incorporated into Microsoft Word lists these meanings for 理科 (lĭkē) in Chinese:
- (教学上对物理、化学、数学、生物等学科的统称) science
- (理科系) science department in a college
From Japanese, it translates:
- 〈科目〉 science; 〈文科に対して〉 the science department ［course］.
So … it looks to me like Chinese uses 理科 as a general term for the several (esp. natural) sciences, while Japanese uses the term (in some contexts, anyway) as a counterpart for (at least some sense[s] of) “science” in English. I could be completely wrong about this, which is why I’m asking about it in this post.
I have the impression that “rika,” rather than “kagaku” is used for “science” as the name of a school subject in the elementary and secondary years (rather than in 大学 or higher education), although I have seen it used sometimes in higher education contexts.
Here is one conjecture I can ask about:
Could it be that the difference between “kagaku” (科学) and “rika” (理科) is something like the difference between “social sciences” and “social studies” in the United States? Social studies is a school subject in the elementary and secondary schools. The school subject of “social studies” is not offered for study at the university (there was a selective “social studies” concentration at Harvard when I was an undergraduate, but this was not the same thing as the elementary/secondary school subject).
In this analogy, it would be like having a school subject of “nature studies” related to “the natural sciences” somewhat like our school subject of “social studies” is related to “the social sciences.” I’m guessing that this might be overstating the differences between 理科 and 科学, even if the analogy is valid to some degree.
I’d be interested in learning more specifics about the differences and commonalities between 理科 and 科学, such as: to what extent, and in what ways, do they have
- differing or common purposes,
- differing or common object-domains (対象 [taishō/duixiang]),
- etc. …
Please respond in comments on this post if you can help me understand this better.
ありがとう, and 谢谢您们 みんなさん!