Author Information: Armin Krishnan, University of Texas at El Paso, email@example.com
Krishnan, Armin. 2013. “Organizing Science: A Further Reply to Fred D’Agostino.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (3): 19-21.
Please refer to:
- D’Agostino, Fred. 2012. “Disciplinarity and the Growth of Knowledge.” Social Epistemology 26 (3-4): 331-350.
- Krishnan, Armin. 2013. “Response to Fred D’Agostino’s ‘Disciplinarity and the Growth of Knowledge’”. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (2): 19-23.
- D’Agostino, Fred. 2013. “Reply to Armin Krishnan.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (2): 24-25.
I want to thank Professor D’Agostino for his kind response to my comments. I am aware that epistemologists have debated the problem of incommensurability ever since Thomas Kuhn brought it up in reference to his concept of scientific paradigms. My way of thinking is more influenced by the pragmatism expressed in Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method (1978), which also developed a concept of the incommensurability of disciplines and methodologies. If something works in terms of expanding or improving our understanding of a specific subject matter or in terms of solving a specific problem, it should be good enough. Scientists and academics should not be too limited by the constraints of disciplinary thinking and should instead try to build bridges to other disciplines and other forms of human knowledge.
I do appreciate and accept Professor D’Agostino’s response that the question of an optimal organization of science is not even decidable since we have no conception of optimal scientific performance and since we have no possibility of comparing the current organization of science with some non-existing hypothetical alternative organization of science. Different arrangements for the organization of science maybe indeed so different as to be considered incommensurable or, in other words, might be so different that they could not even be compared in any meaningful way. Nevertheless, I do think that the way in which the disciplines were originally conceived and the way in which they developed is historically contingent and is not predetermined by some epistemic necessity. It rather appears that “the present organization of content into departments is highly arbitrary, a product in large part of historical accident” (Campbell 1969, 364). We could have a very different set of disciplines if there had been different founders of disciplines or different scientific inventors at the time, or if they had been preoccupied with different scientific questions or problems. The problem with disciplinarity as I see it is that it results in the division of knowledge into compartments that resist easy access because the disciplines protect their body of knowledge through the invention and use of discipline-specific knowledge practices. This makes real interdisciplinarity more difficult and causes, as described by Donald T. Campbell, in the “redundant piling up of highly similar specialties” separated in different disciplines and departments (1969, 361). Continue Reading…