Conceptual Foundations for Multidisciplinary Thinking

By Stephen Jay Kline | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 19
What Have We Learned?

A Summary of Results and Conclusions

This book has discussed multidisciplinary thinking as an explicit subject of study. It has been primarily concerned with those disciplines of knowledge which address truth assertions. It focuses on two central questions: (1) What are the appropriate relationships among the disciplines? and (2) What are the appropriate relationships between a discipline and overviews of the intellectual terrain or truth assertions? The discussion includes: three overviews that aid understanding of the connections between the disciplines; a number of tools for multidisciplinary study; examples of benefits from the use of a multidisciplinary position; a brief history of how the disciplines dealing with truth assertions have evolved and how that affected their development; illustrations of difficulties within our powerful but severely fragmented system of knowledge; and examination of possible sources of these difficulties in order to suggest what needs to be done to alleviate them.

Let us first recapitulate in broad outline what has been covered. The three overviews are based on: the system concept, and its relation to truth assertions and domains; a numerical index for the complexity of systems; and the structure of complex hierarchical systems with interfaces of mutual constraint. These three overviews overlap and reinforce each other.

Examples of the use of the multidisciplinary position have been given in order to illustrate that some problems cannot be properly treated by merely adding up models that arise from separate disciplines. The illustrations show appropriate treatment of some problems that require the interpenetration of ideas from various disciplines. They also show that we have misunderstood, in part, the "rules" for the relations of disciplines to each other.

The capsule history of how the disciplines evolved indicates that the disciplines, as largely independent areas of study carried on by a community of

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