Saturday, June 9, 2012

Thinking Outside the Box

How did social science evolve into such a field? And what will it evolve into from now on? On May 29th, we discussed around these subjects, based on Open the Social Sciences: Report of the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences by Immanuel Wallerstein, and Dejitaru Media Jidai ni Okeru "Chi no Genri" wo saguru [The Principles of Intellect in the Digital Media Era] by Teruo Inoue and Michio Umegaki.

Every day, Economics, Biology, Computer science, and all other fields are cultivated, their boundaries stretched, by experts in each field. These experts cultivate these fields based off of the rich intellect which have been cultivated for many decades and centuries by countless experts in the past. And the discoveries are continuously added on as new intellect, subsequently creating a rich discipline. But these disciplines are usually closed; having very little relations amongst each other. It is significant that we see, and cultivate the inter-discipline, and trans-discipline.

For example, lets take the complex systems theory. Before it was a field, scientists and mathematicians, many of them having very rich knowledge concerning their own fields, hit problems they could not understand, even with their valuable discipline they cherish. Then the complex systems theory gave completely new insights in which connected, and discovered what hid between the closed disciplines. This is what we define now as the inter-discipline, and as a whole: trans-discipline.

Yet objectivity became a major problem in creating this trans-disciplinary field. Although social scientists valued objectivity in their research, what they defined as “objective” was dependant on who believed it was objective, hence technically becoming subjective. That is why social science should not value objectivity, but rather inter-subjective judgment. All disciplinary fields are dynamic, and the technically “subjective” observations create what becomes a discipline. As time goes by, new subjective observations add on, and change the inter- and ultimately trans- disciplinary field. We believe this inter- and trans-disciplinary field is the essence of research in SFC.

A professor in SFC was formerly a psychiatrist and a consultant for students, now teaches, and researches concerning communications with another person, its characteristics, etc. SFC encourages this sort of “crossing over” fields, and thinking outside the box. These opportunities allow students and professors to explore many different fields, cultivating the inter- and ultimately the trans-disciplinary field which has not been recognized before.

Interestingly however, some in our discussion argued that because SFC encourages this “crossing-over” so much, that some lack too much knowledge, and discipline. This notion is significant, and we must never forget the value of how each discipline developed its intellect through the centuries. In order to step outside of the discipline, it is critical to study the history of the discipline, otherwise it is impossible to discover any new insights. But at the same time, this is why even undergraduates in SFC have the potential to cultivate the frontiers of intellect.

For the second part of the class, we watched how SFC came forth, from the significance of inter-discipline and trans-discipline. While Keio University, and all other universities in Japan had faculties that studied fields which have been researched for centuries, Tadao Ishikawa, former President of Keio University proposed the necessity of a new field that can cultivate what existing fields could not see. This revolutionary attempt that valued inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary fields subsequently created the Faculty of Policy Management, and the Faculty of Environmental Studies, and SFC. 


Immanuel Wallerstein, Open the social Sciences: Report of the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences, Stanford University Press, 1996

 Teruo Inoue and Michio Umegaki, Dejitaru Media Jidai ni Okeru "Chi no Genri" wo saguru [The Principles of Intellect in the Digital Media Era],Yuhikaku Publishing Co. Ltd., 1998


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