Interdisciplinearity LO22596

Steve Eskow (
Thu, 9 Sep 1999 00:09:43 -0600

Replying to LO22575 --

Tom Abeles says:

>But this does not preclude the need for polymaths and persons who are
>multilingual in the broadest sense of individuals who can bridge various
>categories of knowledge from the traditional academic disciplines to the
>functions within an organization. There are many examples in positions
>from pure research to management. Some have greater breadth than depth
>and others are the reverse. Yet all cross knowledge barriers bringing
>ideas across the "cylinders" of the time.

Amen. We need bi and multilinguals: people who can speak Spanish and
English. I get the impression, however, that some of the interdisciplinary
folks are not about building bridges between Spanish and English, but are
trying to convince the Spanish and English faculties to change to an
interdisciplinary and common language: perhaps, say, Esperanto.

As I recall the various movements toward interdisciplinearity they
involved folks trying to persuade chemists, philosophers, theologians, and
sociologists to put their heads and learning together to create a single,
unified course called, say, Living in the World of Today and Tomorrow:
some chemistry, moving on to philosophy, a little theology...

If fusion into a "core" course isn't the goal, how are these bridges to be

>Thus, Steve is right in one aspect. We need persons who have solid
>mastery of selected knowledge. But we also need philosophers who can
>build the larger vision and pull these specialties into proper
>perspective and to take the proper measure of each to meld together.

Who has that larger vision, and what does it look like? If I'm a
philosopher and you're an anthropologist, and we can teach students to see
the world through the lenses of philosophy and anthropology, does
"melding" them together in "proper measure" produce a larger, and coherent
vision? Or blur?

Might not the meld create a kind of intellectual hash?

>But we must tread with care, here and not accept The Academy's definition
>and justification of disciplinarity which can and has, in many instances,
>become self serving. Disciplinarity, when in a reductionist mode can be
>just as destructive and banal as the promotion of interdisciplinarity to
>the sublime.

Tom, might you be telling the Chinese chef and the French chef to "meld"
their cuisines, and when they resist you say they are "self serving"?

Isn't the prior question the one the resisters are raising:

Is the stew that you get when you meld all the cuisines better fare than
the separate dishes served in a meaningful sequence, with time to enjoy

My thoughts, Tom.



Steve Eskow <>

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>