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Which clippings match 'Division' keyword pg.1 of 1
01 JANUARY 2011

New Directions in Interdisciplinarity: Broad, Deep, and Critical

"Before interdisciplinarity in either the disciplinary producing or disciplinary–circumscribing senses could manifest itself, disciplinarity itself had to take on its peculiarly modern form. Any assessment of interdisciplinarity – multi – and trans–, noncritical and critical– will benefit from an appreciation of this background.

Prior to the modern period, learning exhibited a kind of unity that might be called predisciplinary. Aristotle, it is true, introduced distinctions between logic, physics, and ethics, but these were never of a kind to raise the possibility of cross–disciplinary formations such as 'physical ethics.' During the Middle Ages, the division of the artes liberales into grammar, rhetoric, dialectic (the trivium), arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music (the quadrivium) ensured that the education of 'free men' included all the knowledge and skills needed to exercise their social roles. Insofar as it existed, disciplinary specialization was present more in the 'servile arts' of artisans and tradesmen. Not even teachers of the liberal arts became specialists in their different branches, because the idea of, for example, possessing arithmetic without grammar would have been considered a deformation of the mind. In the monastery schools, the unfettered pursuit of knowledge was viewed skeptically, criticized as curiositas, and therefore subject to disciplinization in a premodern behavioral sense. Only at the end of the Middle Ages, as the infinite pursuit of disciplinary knowledge took on the character of a spiritual activity, would Renaissance men become necessary to cross boundaries and synthesize diverse areas of learning."

(Robert Frodeman and Carl Mitcham, 2007, p.508)

[1][2] Frodeman, R. and C. Mitcham (2007). "New Directions in Interdisciplinarity: Broad, Deep, and Critical." Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 27(6).


Aristotlearithmetic • artes liberales • artisanastronomy • cross boundaries • cross-disciplinary • curiositas • dialecticdisciplinary knowledgedisciplinary specialisationdisciplinesdiscursive fielddivisionethicsEuropean Renaissance • free men • geometrygrammarinterdisciplinarityknowledgeknowledge integrationlearningliberal artslogicmiddle agesModern • modern period • monastery schools • multidisciplinaritymusicorderingphysics • predisciplinary • premodernpursuit of knowledgeQuadriviumrhetoricservile artsskillsocial construction of knowledgesocial rolesspecialisation • spiritual activity • synthesis • tradesmen • transdisciplinarityTrivium • unity


Simon Perkins
29 DECEMBER 2003

Natural History: uninterrupted surface of nature

"This requirement that nature should be continuous does not take exactly the same form in the systems as it does in the methods. For the systematician, continuity consists only of the unbroken juxtaposition of the different regions that can be clearly distinguished by means of characters; all that is required is an uninterrupted gradation of the values that the structure selected as a character can assume in the species as a whole; starting from this principle, it will become apparent that all these values are occupied by real beings, even though they may not yet be known. 'The system indicates the plants, even those it has not mentioned; which is something that the enumeration of a catalogue can never do' (Linnaeus, Philosophie botanique, section 156). And the categories will not simply be arbitrary conventions laid out over this continuity of juxtaposition; they will correspond (if they have been properly established) to areas that have a distinct existence on this uninterrupted surface of nature; they will be areas that are larger than individuals but just as real. In this way, according to Linnaeus, the reproductive system made it possible to establish the existence of indisputably well–founded genera: 'Know that it is not the character that constitutes the genus, but the genus that constitutes the character, that the character derives from the genus, not the genus from the character' (Ibid., section 169). In the methods, on the other hand, since resemblances — in their massive and clearly evident form – are posited to start with, the continuity of nature will not be this purely negative postulate (no blank spaces between distinct categories), but a positive requirement: all nature forms one great fabric in. which beings resemble one another from one to the next, in which adjacent individuals are infinitely similar to each other; so that any dividing–line that indicates, not the minute difference of the individual, but broader categories, is always unreal. There is a continuity produced by fusion in which all generality is nominal. Our general ideas, says Button, are relative to a continuous scale of objects of which we can clearly perceive only the middle rungs and whose extremities increasingly flee from and escape our considerations . . . The more we increase the number of divisions in the productions of nature, the closer we shall approach to the true, since nothing real ly exists in nature except individuals, and since genera, orders, and classes exist only in our imagination (Buffon, Discours sur la manière de traiter l'histoire naturelle (Œuvres complètes, t. I, pp. 36 and 39).Bonnet, meaning much the same thing, said:There are no leaps in nature: everything in it is graduated, shaded. if there were an empty space between any two beings, what reason would there be for proceed ing from the one to the other? There is thus no being above and below which there are not other beings that are united to it by some characters and separated from it by others.It is therefore always possible to discover 'intermediate productions', such as the polyp between the animal and the vegetable, the flying squirrel between the bird and the quadruped, the monkey between, the quadruped and man. Consequently, our divisions into species and classes 'are purely nominal'; they represent no more than 'means relative to our needs and to the limitations of our knowledge, (Charles Bonnet, Contemplation de la nature, lère partie (Œuvres complètes, t. IV, pp. 35–6))."
(Foucault, 2003, p.159–160)

Foucault, M. (2003). The Order Of Things. London, Routledge.


Bonnetcharactercontinuitydivision • genera • genus • great fabric • juxtapositionMichel FoucaultOrder Of Things (Foucault)resemblance

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