Conceptual Foundations for Multidisciplinary Thinking

By Stephen Jay Kline | Go to book overview

thereby remains primitive in some ways. And these are only a few of the serious results correctly foretold by the list of gaps.

On the other hand, in Chapter 14 we were able to see how to unlock some old apparent conundrums and deal with the paradoxes of many solutions to one problem -- three examples were studied and a multidisciplinary approach used. The negative expectations that the list of gaps foretells have indeed been fulfilled in the past. We are now ready to state a final conclusion in two parts.


Final Conclusion

Part A. Multidisciplinary discourse is more than just important. We can have a complete intellectual system, one that covers all the necessary territory, only if we add multidisciplinary discourse to the knowledge within the disciplines. This is true not only in principle but also for strong pragmatic reasons. This will assure the safety of our more global ideas.

Part B. We senior faculty will be able to fulfill the obligation of the elders to present to our students worldviews that are simultaneously understandable, realistic, forward-looking, and whole, only if we construct and maintain a multidisciplinary discourse as an addition to the discourses in our separate disciplines.

I leave to Appendix A the question of how multidisciplinary discourse can be effectively adjoined to disciplinary work in universities by relatively small changes in structure. The disciplinary system at its beginnings was an idea of importance and power. However, in thinking about it now, we need to remember a short verse by James Russell Lowell:

New occasions teach new duties; time makes ancient good uncouth; They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth.

This brings us back to our starting point, where it was emphasized that this is a beginning discourse that is far from complete. The discourse needs discussion by many others, and this needs a community for such a discussion. Building such a community for discussion of the issues raised by the list of gaps remains for the future.

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