Magazine article Liberal Education

From the Editor

Magazine article Liberal Education

From the Editor

Article excerpt

The remarkable growth of interdisciplinary studies in recent decades has engendered both enthusiasm and skepticism. For the enthusiast, the spread of interdisciplinary has not yet gone far enough; for the skeptic, its encroachment has gone too far already. While it is probably too soon to say whether, on balance, the rise of interdisciplinarity has had a positive or negative influence on the academy as a whole, now may be the time to raise questions about the future of interdisciplinary studies.

In practice, interdisciplinarity typically involves the integration of two or more disciplinary approaches in order to address common problems or to explore neglected topics. In other words, interdisciplinarity represents an attempt to redress limitations of the disciplines. In this sense, then, an interdisciplinary approach is often ad hoc. Even when they are not amenable to permanent solution, common problems can be exhausted. And the relationship between interdisciplinarity and the disciplines is a dependent one: there can be no interdisciplinarity without disciplines, and interaction among disciplines often results in reciprocal influence. But how sharply drawn is the line between disciplinary and interdisciplinary, really? Regardless of its original impetus, an interdisciplinary approach may eventually be formalized into a more or less distinct methodology; a more or less discrete body of knowledge may emerge; an interdisciplinary field or program may evolve into something very like a discipline or department. …

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