Habits of the mind: Challenges for multidisciplinary engagement

Social Epistemology 20 (3 & 4):315 – 331 (2006)
Abstract
The extraordinary complexity of knowledge in today's world creates a paradox. On the one hand, its sheer volume and intricacy demand disciplinary specialization, even sub-specialization; innovative research or scholarship increasingly requires immersion in the details of one's disciplinary dialogue. On the other hand, that very immersion can limit innovation. Disciplinary specialization inhibits faculty from broadening their intellectual horizons - considering questions of importance outside their discipline, learning other methods for answering these questions and pondering the possible significance of other disciplines' findings for their own work. This article seeks to understand more fully the factors that enhance and impede cross-disciplinary conversations and the possible longer-term effects of those conversations. Based on 46 interviews with a sample of seminar participants, it examines the experiences of faculty members who ventured (voluntarily) into multidisciplinary waters and its implications for the organization of disciplines and universities.
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