Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. Mai 2004

1.6. The Unifying Method of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences: The Method of Transdisciplinarity
Herausgeberin | Editor | Éditeur: Josephine Papst (Graz)

Buch: Das Verbindende der Kulturen | Book: The Unifying Aspects of Cultures | Livre: Les points communs des cultures

Report: The Unifying Method of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences: The Method of Transdisciplinarity

Josephine Papst (indexicals - Centre of transdisciplinary cognitive and state-system sciences, Graz, Austria)


In the search for the unifying method of the humanities, the social and natural sciences we came up that we already entered a new paradigm, because it is not merely a method between other methods, but rather a unique new paradigm, namely the paradigm of transdisciplinarity. We human beings on this earth - we do not have another planet - live in place and time over time. During the last centuries we have collected a huge heap of data about the world and about ourselves, however, we still are not certain about what there is, how we do know and what we can, may or might do and hope? What is the universe good for? The latter are questions beyond the usual empirical sciences in humanities, social and natural sciences; the latter questions do request for a perspective from the outside, for a perspective from beyond all the different particular disciplines.

The new paradigm of transdisciplinarity stands at the beginning of the quest for a eudemonic life of human beings and of societies now and in the future. Within this paradigm of transdisciplinarity we started with the contribution by Bernhard Lauth Transtheoretical structures in natural sciences and humanities. He did show that transtheoretical mathematical structures emerge in different areas of research, such as vector spaces, topological structures and neural networks. The Manifesto of transdisciplinarity by Basarab Nicolescu was the issue of the contributions by Karen-Claire Voss' Transdisciplinarity and the Quest for a Tomorrow and Predrag Cicovaki's Transdisciplinarity as an Interactive Method: A Critical Reflection on the Three Pillars of Transdisciplinarity. First of all the focus was on Basarab Nicolescu's new approach to life on earth as something sacred, and based on this to ontology that regards the world as a living entity, to epistemology, and logic with the included middle. Karen-Claire Voss gave some examples from her personal experience with transdisciplinarity where she feels home. Predrag Cicovaki added to the three pillars of transdisciplinarity, namely to ontology, epistemology, and logic a fourth pillar. Friedrich Waller tried something very different from that with his contribution Cultures and Science. He uses the Brechtian method of strangefication as the crucial method to understand other cultures with the various kinds of appearances, such as their sciences and ways of life and languages.

With regard to a progress towards "live together in reasonable harmony" according to William James and Jürgen Habermas David Schrader in his contribution Pragmatism, Unification, and Transdisciplinarity suggested a transdisciplinary version of pragmatism based on contemporary examples in American Culture. He formulated transdisciplinary pragmatism as the universal pluralistic foundation of natural sciences, humanities and law, away from pragmatism as a merely practical organisation of knowledge, but as pragmatism in favour of a social equilibrium. In Acting in politics in the era of the scientific picture of the world Kurt Grünewald criticised the attitude of politicians to handle only with catchphrases and their justification that there is no time. However, as Kurt Grünewald could show there is a way out of the old-fashioned model of politics that sees its job in pure administration. The starting point of a new model takes place where politicians ask for a world worth to live in and try to create reality in fact according to this demand, and they are responsible for. Such a qualitative approach to the world could become generated from history, our present time and within the paradigm of transdisciplinarity with its visionary approach to our life on earth. It is necessary to be able to distinguish between the original and the fake to identify the modes of manipulation in the different areas of social processes and to come up to qualified majority decisions. Understanding is the common demand of everybody in our societies, and therefore, of the responsible communication between the laity, politics, and sciences. Scepticism with respect to the argument of the compulsion to act as the final justification of political acting is requested. Hans Keune formulated such a qualitative approach in Transdisciplinarity in action: developing policy relevant knowledge. Based on the research project of the Flemish Centre of Expertise for Health and Environment Hans Keune showed the complexity of problems concerning environment and health in the way it appears in the communication between politicians - who are responsible for their decisions -, scientists - who try to yield and communicate the relevant empirical data and theories - and the citizens of the state.

How the paradigm of transdisciplinarity as the unifying and at the same time the pluralistic approach to all the various features of reality against the background of the most elementary questions on what there is, how we can know and what we - as humans beings as part of the sacred - can do was the focus by Josephine Papst's From the structure and signs to the perspective of beyondness or transdisciplinarity. Within sciences where the differentiation into the various disciplines and later on into the interdisciplines during the last century took place and where philosophy as the universal most basic approach to reality lost its place the demand for a new perspective from the outside of all the various disciplines revealed its necessity. This new perspective might become achieved by the paradigm of transdisciplinarity. The analogous perspective in ethics and aesthetics - to say in everyday life and in arts - it is the perspective of beyondness. This perspective of beyondness might become grasped intuitively and intuition is also the place in the inner world of human beings where the perspective of transdisciplinarity starts. So, there is a way we come together.

The investigation of transnational structures in political actions is an unavoidable part of such an approach. The shift from modernity and postmodernity to transmodernity based the demand for human rights within a political structure of international anarchy and an asymmetrical transnational world Paul Ghils asked in his International Relations and its Languages: A Transdiciplinary Perspective for a redefinition of international relations and cooperation between the various governmental and non-governmental organisations. For the conception of the transmodern approach to transnational cooperation on the global international dimension Paul Ghils did refer for good reasons to both our grandfathers of rationality - the objective and the subjective one -, namely to René Descartes and Michel de Montaigne.

The fact that political decisions are often based on superfluous profit-orientated ideologies in terms of trends and formulated by empty catchphrases was figured out on concrete examples in architecture by Thomas Pilz in TERROR OF ATTRACTION. The discourse on beauty, truth and precision and on the economic exploitation of attention. The closed connection between new technologies, the ways of survival and the living nature was pointed out with the help of several examples from the history of sciences by Nikolaus Reisinger in Transdisciplinary approach to technical sciences on the example of bionics. Irmfried Windbichler in The perspective of aesthetics in architecture entered the sphere of the inherently complex reality with its fuzziness. There is no way to translate the perspective of aesthetics in architecture into another language, since the conception of the space asks for an understanding of a multileveled reality that escapes from a reduction to a three-dimensional and a purely quantitative reconstruction.

Starting with mathematical structures as transtheoretical structures that appear in the different areas of research by Bernhard Lauth, finally, we entered the space of music that brought us back to the starting point of transtheoretical mathematical structures. Florian Geßler opened his contribution Time and music/Music in time with the metaphor of "The watch as composition". Music cannot become disconnected from time, although in conceiving music objective time becomes subjective. To let us experience the subjective feature of time Florian Geßler gave five musical examples. The camber concert by Florian Geßler The hour of the comedians for two violins and one clarinet brought about the ultimate experience of the perspective of transdisciplinarity.

The result is that the discussion of the different aspects formulated in our contributions to our section made it clearer what the paradigm of transdisciplinarity is. In this sense it brought us at least closer towards our request for a Tomorrow.

Our advocated new paradigm of transdiscplinarity might seem somehow utopian in a world as it is nowadays, and we have to say that we are highly aware of that.

© Josephine Papst (indexicals - Centre of transdisciplinary cognitive and state-system sciences, Graz, Austria)

1.6. The Unifying Method of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences: The Method of Transdisciplinarity

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For quotation purposes:
Josephine Papst (Graz): Report: The Unifying Method of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences: The Method of Transdisciplinarity. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 15/2003. WWW:

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