Disciplinary vs. Interdisciplinary (and other tricky dualities...)

AnnaP's picture

Yesterday in Prof. Dalke's discussion section, we talked about whether it was more effective to conceive of our eduction in terms of defined, separate disciplines or in terms of an interdisciplinary approach. We seemed to have a very difficult time coming up with an answer; some people, for instance, thought that we have the responsibility to teach people about "social Darwinism" (and the ways in which Darwin's theories have been co-opted) in a biology class, and others felt that that should be the territory of a history class.

I was reminded of our discussion in reading Darwin's Dangerous Idea, when Dennett states that "'Well-defined' species certainly do exist...but [Darwin] discourages us from trying to find a 'principled' definition of the concept of a species" (45). I felt that I could just as easily rewrite this sentence to be "'Well-defined' disciplines certainly do exist...but we should be discouraged from trying to find a 'principled' definition of the concept of a discipline." Like with species, the 'line' between disciplines certainly seems to exist, and yet is extremely difficult to pinpoint; taking this into consideration, I think that we should get out of the duality of "Interdisciplinary vs. Disciplinary" to instead consider alternatives that recognize that there ARE disciplines, but that the lines between them are inherently blurry.

Beyond that, it is up to us to personally reflect on what works for us, on what allows us to most effectively produce knowledge, and on what inspires us. For me, personally, I am most inspired by literature, but not entirely at the expense of other interests; while I claim not to be a "science person" and instead to be a "literature person," ultimately I like to focus on literature while simultaneously widening my scope to include looking to history, sociology, politics, philosophy, and, indeed, even science to deepen my understanding of what literary ideas I am learning at any particular moment.

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