Another Approach to Interdisciplinary Studies




Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Association for Interdisciplinary Studies


"Newell’s “A Theory of Interdisciplinary Studies” is criticized for its undefined and inadequate borrowing of the term nonlinear from chaos theory and the repeated use of this term as a deus ex machina to explain emergent or self-organizing behavior. His theory is unable to model complex behavior or to distinguish, as he wants to do, his definition of complexity from the complexity generated by chaos theory or neo-evolutionary biology. His theory does not clearly distinguish systems and processes that produce phenomena and the system and process that produces knowledge of phenomena. His theory, it is argued, paints an unrealistic picture of what the interdisciplinary scholar does. An approach to interdisciplinarity that contrasts with Newell’s is then put forward. The incremental nature of scholarly work combined with the system and process of knowledge production is shown to be analogous to the process of iteration through nonlinear equations of chaos theory and fractal mathematics. Interdisciplinary scholarship is viewed as similar to discipline scholarship, but too often, interdisciplinary scholarship does not become part of an iterative, ongoing system and process."




Mackey, J. Linn. "Another approach to interdisciplinary studies." Issues in Integrative Studies 19 (2001): 59-70.