Conceptual Foundations for Multidisciplinary Thinking

By Stephen Jay Kline | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Introduction
The intellectual system erected largely in the Western world since the Reformation is enormously powerful and productive. Although we have much yet to learn, the scientific approach to knowledge since the time of Galileo has provided the human race with a far better understanding of our world and of ourselves than was available to any previous society. This gain in understanding has arisen primarily from two sources. We have adopted what we loosely call "scientific methods," and we have broken the intellectual enterprise into a larger and larger number of parts (disciplines and research programs). We have created working groups of scholars who study each of the parts in as "scientific" a method as they can bring to bear. However, there is a near total absence of overviews of the intellectual terrain.The lack of overviews of the intellectual terrain causes several difficulties. We have no means for understanding the relationship of our individual area of expertise to the larger intellectual enterprise. We have no viewpoint from which we can look objectively at the relations among the various disciplines. We tend to see science as a single method (usually based on physics), and thereby underestimate the differences in the methods and natures of various fields dealing with truth assertions. It seems past due that we begin to see if we can rectify these difficulties. That is the primary purpose of this book.This book deals with questions such as the following:
Can we erect overviews of the intellectual domain dealing with truth assertions about physical, biological, and social nature?
Are such overviews important?
What is the appropriate nature of the "principles" for various disciplines?

-1-

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