Blog of Sara Jakša

The Point fo Disciplines

The 20th century had seen the great divide among the different disciplines. For example, the psychology had become a couple of different psychologies from cognitive psychology, to the social psychology and so on and so on. There were fields that started by trying to combine different fields together like cognitive science or computational biology.

This has fractionated the field quite a lot and there seem to be the growing number of different field, with people specializing not only the the subject that they are studying but also in the ways that they are studying.

But there seems to be movements, even if they are not main stream yet, to combine the different disciplines together to study one phenomena, like the cognitive science, or to include more and more wider look at the situation, leading to the fields like complexity economics.

What I am trying to say is, that more and more people are figuring out that leaving most of the things at the door is not going to help them explain things. Let me walk you through some examples, and hopefully it will become clearer.

The first example come from economics. In neo-clasical economics, the most studied type, assumed that economy has no effect on the innovation, on technology, on institutions and on nature. These things were given. Any change that come to them did not come from the economy, or at that time, in the tradition of Adam Smith, from the markets.

But then people started to include these things in the economics. Now the irrationality of people can be somehow predicted and it got affected and it had an effect on the markets. The same become true for innovation, technology and institutions.

And these things came to economics from different disciplines, for example biology, where evolutionary economics used the theory of evolution, with genes being substituted by routines (which are actually decision rules). Or there are other examples, from political sciences, psychology and so on. There was apparently even researcher, to took ideas from chemistry.

The second example would be the Varela's project for the science and phenomenology to come closer together. Varela worked on the project to bring phenomenology or the research of first-person experience to the science. It eventually wanted to bring science closer to the phenomenology, but this part is usually not as emphasised, as it was far for being done formulating.

The third example could be in the health sciences, where some people are starting to use the environments, from social relationships to place of living to relationships to life as a way to help explain some of the health issues.

Then what is the point of disciplines? I still believe that disciplines have a role in the future of science. That is because the discipline provide a different lens from which to see the world.

Let us contrast the theoretical computer scientist and the person studying management. For the first, the number of communications is something that needs to be minimized, as these are points that make it inefficient. The less pieces of information a system needs to operate, the less time is spend waiting and there is less chance of something going wrong.

On the other hand, the person studying management sees the communication as helping creativity or exchanging ideas or making the work go quicker.

The lenses of the discipline make them see the same problem from the different perspectives. And it is that perspective that makes the disciplines necessary for the future.

These things can be quite seen in the philosophy. Heidegger had worked on what most people took as epistemology problem with ontology. In the ecological philosophy, most people take the ethical approach, but Naess is taking the ontological approach.

Just because I have picked two such examples does not mean that I think ontology has a solution for everything.

The disciplines are here to stay. But where I do see the possible shift is that more and more disciplines are going to be working on the same problems. And it is a good thing, since I believe that quite a lot of problems that we still have can profit from the multiple perspectives.