The Hermeneutics of Interdisciplinarity
Clark, Kevin Wayne
Here we seek to develop a hermeneutics of interdisciplinarity, understood both as a theory of interdisciplinary experience and pedagogy for its cultivation and practice. This project, however, is neither simply a hermeneutic interpretation of interdisciplinarity nor an application of hermeneutics to the problem of interdisciplinary theory. It is rather a formulation of interdisciplinary theory that proceeds from a hermeneutic recognition of the problem interdisciplinary would overcome, namely, the alienation of modern consciousness, as well as the character of the experience interdisciplinarity would cultivate. At least two aspects of interdisciplinary practice bring its hermeneutic character to light, namely, its emphasis upon application and dialogue, and practical orientation toward the problem, as well as its proximity to the non-disciplinary or liberal study of the humanities. Understood in terms of a theory of hermeneutic experience, it is clear that these characteristic emphases are not simply techniques for making knowledge relevant or applicable, but are the embodiment of a distinctly hermeneutic ontology of understanding. Similarly, interdisciplinarity’s emergence alongside the liberal study of the humanities is not historical happenstance, but points to its intuitive appreciation for the distinct experience such practice of the humanities cultivates.Recognition of the distinctly hermeneutic character of interdisciplinary experience is essential to developing a coherent interdisciplinary theory. Moreover, the radical character of interdisciplinary practice only fully comes to light, and the liberal study of the humanities’ potential as an interdisciplinary pedagogy is only fully realized, within a hermeneutic theory of interdisciplinary experience. We suggest the neologism interity as a means of capturing the hermeneutic character of interdisciplinary experience, and will thus speak of realizing the interity of interdisciplinarity in each of the three areas mentioned above. Because the theory of hermeneutic experience Hans-Georg Gadamer discloses in the second part of Truth and Method is the philosophical articulation of precisely the kind of experience interdisciplinarity seeks to cultivate, his work will prove central in each aspect of this threefold task. The creative appropriation of hermeneutics in the work of Paul Ricoeur will also prove fruitful to this study both by identifying the alienation of modern consciousness and illustrating the practical significance of a hermeneutic pedagogy of interdisciplinarity
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