, Volume 190, Issue 11, pp 1865–1879 | Cite as

What is interdisciplinary communication? Reflections on the very idea of disciplinary integration

  • J. Britt HolbrookEmail author


In this paper I attempt to answer the question: What is interdisciplinary communication? I attempt to answer this question, rather than what some might consider the ontologically prior question—what is interdisciplinarity (ID)?—for two reasons: (1) there is no generally agreed-upon definition of ID; and (2) one’s views regarding interdisciplinary communication have a normative relationship with one’s other views of ID, including one’s views of its very essence. I support these claims with reference to the growing literature on ID, which has a marked tendency to favor the idea that interdisciplinary communication entails some kind of ‘integration’. The literature on ID does not yet include very many philosophers, but we have something valuable to offer in addressing the question of interdisciplinary communication. Playing somewhat fast-and-loose with traditional categories of the subdisciplines of philosophy, I group some philosophers—mostly from the philosophy of science, social–political philosophy, and moral theory—and some non-philosophers together to provide three different, but related, answers to the question of interdisciplinary communication. The groups are as follows: (1) Habermas–Klein, (2) Kuhn–MacIntyre, and (3) Bataille–Lyotard. These groups can also be thought of in terms of the types of answers they give to the question of interdisciplinary communication, especially in terms of the following key words (where the numbers correspond to the groups from the previous sentence): (1) consensus, (2) incommensurability, and (3) invention.


Interdisciplinarity Transdisciplinarity Communication Integration Consensus Incommensurability Invention 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Apostel, L., Berger, G., Briggs, A., Michaud, G. (Eds.). (1972) Interdisciplinarity: Problems of teaching and research in universities. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, ParisGoogle Scholar
  2. Bataille G. (1988) Inner experience (L. A. Boldt, Trans.). SUNY Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  3. Bataille G. (1993) Literature and evil (A.Hamilton, Trans.). Marion Boyers, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Collins H. M., Evans R. J. (2002) The third wave of science studies: Studies of expertise and experience. Social Studies of Sciences 32(2): 235–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. COSEPUP. (2004). Facilitating interdisciplinary research. Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP). Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  6. Davidson, D. (1974). On the very idea of a conceptual scheme. In Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association (vol. 47, pp. 5–20). Newark: American Philosophical Association.Google Scholar
  7. Frodeman R. (2010) Introduction. In: Frodeman R., Klein J. T., Mitcham C. (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of interdisciplinarity. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp xxix–xxxixGoogle Scholar
  8. Frodeman R., Klein J.T., Mitcham C. (Eds.). (2010) The Oxford handbook of interdisciplinarity. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Galison P. (1997) Image & logic: A material culture of microphysics. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  10. Gibbons M., Limoges C., Nowotny H., Schwartzman S., Scott P., Trow M. (1994) The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Gorman M. (2010) Trading zones and interactional expertise: Creating new kinds of collaboration. MIT Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  12. Habermas, J. (1998 [1976]). What is universal pragmatics? In M. Cooke (Ed.), On the pragmatics of communication (pp. 21–104). Boston: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  13. Hirsch Hadorn G. et al (2008) Handbook of transdisciplinary research. Springer, DordrechtCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Klein J. T. (1990) Interdisciplinarity: History, theory, and practice. Wayne State University Press, Detroit, MIGoogle Scholar
  15. Klein J. T. (1996) Crossing boundaries: Knowledge, disciplinarities, and interdisciplinarities in the series on knowledge: Disciplinarity and beyond. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VAGoogle Scholar
  16. Klein J. T. (2005) Interdisciplinary teamwork: The dynamics of collaboration and integration. In: Derry S. J., Schunn C. D., Gernsbacher M. A. (Eds.), Interdisciplinary collaboration: An emerging cognitive science. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, pp 23–50Google Scholar
  17. Klein J. T. (2010) A taxonomy of interdisciplinarity. In: Frodeman R., Klein J. T., Mitcham M. (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of interdisciplinarity. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 15–30Google Scholar
  18. Klein J. T. (2011) Research integration: A comparative knowledge base. In: Repko A. F., Newell W. H., Szostak R. (Eds.), Interdisciplinary research: Case studies of integrative understandings of complex problems. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp 283–298Google Scholar
  19. Krishnan, A. (2009). What are academic disciplines? Some observations on the disciplinarity vs. interdisciplinarity debate. ESRC National Centre for Research Methods, NCRM Working Paper Series. Accessed 1 May 2012.
  20. Kuhn T. S. (2000) The road since structure. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  21. Latucca L. R. (2001) Creating interdisciplinarity: Interdisciplinary research and teaching among college and university faculty. Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, TNGoogle Scholar
  22. Lyotard J.-F. (1988) The differend: Phrases in dispute. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MNGoogle Scholar
  23. MacIntyre A. (1988) Whose justice? Which rationality?. Notre Dame University Press, Notre Dame, INGoogle Scholar
  24. MacIntyre A. (1990) Three rival versions of moral enquiry. Notre Dame University Press, Notre Dame, INGoogle Scholar
  25. Newell, W. H., & Klein, J. T. (2001). Issues in integrative studies (vol. 19).
  26. Plaisance, K. S., & Fehr, C. (Eds.). (2010). Making philosophy of science more socially relevant. Synthese, 177(3), 301–492.Google Scholar
  27. Repko A.F. (2008) Interdisciplinary research: Process and theory. Sage Publications, LondonGoogle Scholar
  28. Repko, A. F., Newell, W. H., Szostak, R. (Eds.). (2011) Interdisciplinary research: Case studies of integrative understandings of complex problems. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  29. Schatzki T. (1986) The rationalization of meaning and understanding: Davidson and Habermas. Synthese 69: 51–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Star S. L., Griesemer J. R. (1989) Institutional ecology, ‘translations,’ and boundary objects: Amateurs and professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907–1939. Social Studies of Science 19: 387–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stone, D. (2011). The experience of the tacit in multi- and interdisciplinary collaboration. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences. Accessed 1 May 2012.
  32. Whyte K. P., Crease R. P. (2010) Trust, expertise, and the philosophy of science. Synthese 177: 411–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of InterdisciplinarityUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA

Personalised recommendations