Friday, 8 May 2009

Transdisciplinarity as an Interactive Method

by Predrag Cicovacki (Department of Philosophy, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, USA)

We are witnessing, I am convinced, the first stages of a new and extremely promising revolution. This movement promotes a new approach to human knowledge - ranging from and including natural sciences, social sciences and humanities - and, indeed, a new approach to humanity in general. The temporary name of this revolution is "transdisciplinarity," and one of its most important pioneers and champions is the quantum physicist Basarab Nicolescu. As the author of La transdisciplinarité, the initial manifesto of the transdisciplinary movement, he continues to develop this new vision of human knowledge and a new approach to the world in which we live together. The goal of my paper is to contribute to the development of this new paradigm by offering a sympathetic yet critical reflection on the fundamental philosophical and methodological aspects of transdisciplinarity. I will begin (section I) by discussing the word 'transdisciplinary' and will argue that transdisciplinarity should be understood as an interactive method. After that, I will consider (in sections II-IV) the so-called "three pillars of transdisciplinarity: the levels of Reality, the logic of the included middle, and complexity," which Nicolescu claims "determine the methodology of transdisciplinary research."(1) What is at least initially unclear are two questions: First, why are there exactly three pillars, rather than two, or four, or any other number? Second, why these particular pillars, rather than any others? After suggesting why Nicolescu's three pillars should be renamed as transdisciplinary ontology, transdisciplinary logic, and transdisciplinary epistemology, I will in the end (in section V) insist that there is a need for the fourth pillar as well. Nicolescu himself often emphasizes the value aspect of transdisciplinarity, namely that "it is a way of self-transformation, oriented towards the knowledge of the self, the unity of knowledge, and the creation of a new art of living."(2) For this reason transdisciplinarity requires the fourth pillar as well, a new transdisciplinary theory of values.


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