Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines

Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines

Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines

Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines

Synopsis

What happens to scientific knowledge when researchers outside the natural sciences bring elements of the latest trend across disciplinary boundaries for their own purposes? Researchers in fields from anthropology to family therapy and traffic planning employ the concepts, methods, and results of chaos theory to harness the disciplinary prestige of the natural sciences, to motivate methodological change or conceptual reorganization within their home discipline, and to justify public policies and aesthetic judgments.
Using the recent explosion in the use (and abuse) of chaos theory, Borrowed Knowledge and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines examines the relationship between science and other disciplines as well as the place of scientific knowledge within our broader culture. Stephen H. Kellert's detailed investigation of the myriad uses of chaos theory reveals serious problems that can arise in the interchange between science and other knowledge-making pursuits, as well as opportunities for constructive interchange. By engaging with recent debates about interdisciplinary research, Kellert contributes a theoretical vocabulary and a set of critical frameworks for the rigorous examination of borrowing.

Excerpt

Many disciplines provide useful ways to understand and evaluate the phenomenon of borrowing. By turns, we may have to ask questions about the social structures of academic work, the way language works, and the nature of evaluative questions. Before addressing these specific tasks, however, I articulate and defend my general methodological approach. This methodology has two main features: disciplinary pluralism, that is, using a wide array of techniques of inquiry, and normative naturalism, that is, using empirical inquiries to inform evaluative judgments about what works well and what does not. After clarifying what I mean by methodology in this study, I turn to disciplinary pluralism and then to normative naturalism. Along the way I do not break new philosophical ground so much as articulate and defend a particular mode of interdisciplinary endeavor that seeks neither to unify all disciplines nor to keep them insulated from each other. As reader, you may already accept that borrowing is a complicated phenomenon requiring several different approaches in order to understand how it happens, and why. You may also already accept that using these various approaches will help us make judgments about when borrowing works well and when itworks badly. Ifso, consider this chapter both a general argument for a pluralistic . . .

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