Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies Volume 04 (1986)

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    From Scientific Specialization to the Dialogue Between the Disciplines
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 1986) Miller, Raymond C.; Klein, Julie Thompson
    The enormous increase of the objects of inquiry since the seventeenth century has led to an increasing specialization in the individual scholarly and scientific disciplines and in their research. Today, despite the immense gain in knowledge tied to this development, an increasing number of people believe that cooperation between the disciplines is urgently necessary, because it can lead to creative ways of approaching problems and, therefore, to productive solutions. This is especially true for such socially relevant problems as research on peace or the environment. But considerable barriers hinder this cooperation. The conventional organizational forms of the scholarly and scientific enterprise, for example, promote further specialization rather than cooperation. So, too, the research undertaken by different disciplines often proceeds on vastly different basic assumptions. And, of course, one discipline often lacks knowledge about a neighboring discipline. But these difficulties might well be overcome if scholars and scientists are willing to adapt themselves, quickly and unconventionally, to new and surprising research constellations.
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    The Structure of Interdisciplinary Knowledge: A Polanyian View
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 1986) Miller, Raymond C.; Klein, Julie Thompson
    The five-part theoretical scheme that Erich Jantsch devised to describe interrelations among disciplines provides interdisciplinarians with a sound framework for interdisciplinary knowledge. However, when Jantsch introduces the concept of human purpose into the category of "interdisciplinarity," he departs from the foundational ground of structuralist epistemology and builds his scheme for both "interdisciplinarity" and "transdisciplinarity" without a foundational theory of epistemology. Support for Jantsch's scheme can be found in Michael Polanyi's theory of knowledge, since the two-level structure of Jantsch's "interdisciplinarity" is analogous to the structure of Polanyi's theory of tacit knowing. Comparison of these two theories of knowledge also demonstrates how interdisciplinary knowledge is the knowledge of new meaning created by the integration of concepts and ideas from different disciplines.
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    Interdisciplinarity and the University: The Dream and the Reality
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 1986) Miller, Raymond C.; Klein, Julie Thompson
    In proposing interdisciplinary programs to deal with the problems caused by specialization, it is important to understand the development of the modern university between the middle of the nineteenth century and the present. The current organization of knowledge is the result of several changes in the university. These include increasing secularization and diversification of the curriculum and the rise of the contemporary discipline as a new social institution. A variety of existing programs, including those at Pennsylvania State University, demonstrate the interdisciplinary interactions that can take place among students, faculty, and researchers.
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    Confessions of an Unconscious Interdisciplinarian
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 1986) Miller, Raymond C.; Klein, Julie Thompson
    This is a cautionary tale, told by one whose venture into interdisciplinary work began with a social psychology experiment. Realizing there were moral dimensions to the experiment, he began following his interests across conventional boundaries. Ultimately, this led to studies of how people think about responsibility and, more recently, the ethical dilemmas faced by nurses and doctors who care for seriously ill newborns, an area that reaches far beyond the boundaries of moral philosophy into economics, sociology, and health policy. These experiences suggest that interdisciplinary theorists would do well to study what actually happens when people do interdisciplinary research. By creating and studying narratives about cases of interdisciplinary research, those who study interdisciplinarity will be able to temper abstract theory with experience.
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    The Quiet Revolution: The Transformation and Reintegration of the Humanities
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 1986) Miller, Raymond C.; Klein, Julie Thompson
    A transformation has occurred in the humanities during the past four decades which has permitted the humanistic disciplines to reintegrate with each other and with the social sciences. The gradual absorption of Saussurean linguistics has brought about a profound change in our understanding of the relationship between language and the world. This, in turn, has resulted in an age of theory and in the production of metalanguages which reinforce the connective power of the humanistic disciplines. Linguistic models have replaced models borrowed from the natural sciences in partial recognition of the fact that culture is discursively constructed and rooted in specifically historical situations. Imagery, theory, method, and style are borrowed from humanistic disciplines to aid the social sciences as the natural sciences provide fewer relevant models. We are moving toward a new philology or the study of culture as text.
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    Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Study, and Minor Programs of Study
    (Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 1986) Miller, Raymond C.; Klein, Julie Thompson
    The inquiry form of liberal education conveys a much-needed sense of purpose for undergraduate education. Inquiry principles enable the assessment of conventional organizations and practices with much clearer criteria than currently available, and they call into sharp question the efficacy of relying exclusively on disciplinary criteria for organizing undergraduates' advanced, "in depth" study. Through an inquiry approach, we can see that academic disciplines are a part of the professional culture of academics rather than an expression of inherent properties of universal knowledge structures. This enables the case for interdisciplinary study to be made in cogent intellectual and pedagogical terms that do not implicitly accept the centrality of disciplines. The last section of the essay contains a proposal for a curricular structure that holds substantial promise in promoting the type of education advocated in the first two sections. While very aware of the danger of overstating the case, the proposal does directly and plausibly address some of the most pressing concerns in higher education.