Bioethics and Interdisciplinarity. Soraj Hongladarom Philosophy, Chulalongkorn University. Presentation given at the First Bangkok Bioethics Roundtable, September 11-15, 2005, Bangkok, Thailand. Outline.
Presentation given at the First Bangkok Bioethics Roundtable,
September 11-15, 2005, Bangkok, Thailand
A man who can lay claim to knowledge about some categorized bit of the world, however tiny, which is greater than anyone else's knowledge of that bit, is safe for life: reputation grows, paranoia deepens. The number of papers increases exponentially, knowledge grows by infinitesimals, but understanding of the world actually recedes, because the world really is an interacting system. And since the world, in many of its aspects, is changing at an exponential rate, this kind of scholarship, rooted in the historical search of its own sanctified categories, is in large part unavailing to the needs of mankind.
There has been some recognition of this, and inter-disciplinary studies are by now commonplace in every university. But will this deal with the problem? Unfortunately, it will not. We still say that a graduate must have his 'basic discipline', and this he is solemnly taught - as if such a thing had a precise environmental correlate, and as if we know that God knew the difference between physics and chemistry. He learns also the academic mores, catches the institutional paranoia, and proceeds to propagate the whole business. Thus it is that an 'interdisciplinary study' often consists of a group of disciplinarians holding hands in a ring for mutual comfort. The ostensible topic has slipped down the hole in the middle. Among those who recognize this too, a natural enough debate has ensued on the subject: can an undergraduate be taught 'interdisciplinary studies' as his basic subject? But there is no such subject; there is no agreement on what it would be like; and we are rather short of anyone qualified to do the teaching. Those who resist the whole idea, in my view correctly, say that it would endanger the norms of good scholarship. There is a deadlock....
The dissolution of the deadlock within the disciplinary system that I described above has got to be metasystemic, not merely interdisciplinary. We are not interested in forming a league of disciplinary paranoids, but (as Hegel could have told us) in a higher synthesis of disciplines....
In the mounting pile of new books printed every year that are properly called scientific, one may take hold of one's candle and search like a veritable Diogenes for a single one answering to the honest criteria I have proposed for a metasystemic utterance. There is only a handful in existence at all, which is not surprising in view of the way both knowledge and academia are organized. And yet, as I have also proposed, herein lies the world's real need. If we are to understand a newer and still evolving world; if we are to educate people to live in that world; if we are to legislate for that world; if we are to abandon categories and institutions that belong to a vanished world, as it is well-nigh desparate that we should; then knowledge must be rewritten.
Stafford Beer, Prefact to Humberto R Maturana and Francisco J Varela, Autopoiesis: The Realization of the Living (1980): 64-5
Public Forum on
Biobanking Laws in EU and ASEAN:
Lessons and Prospects
Pathumwan Princess Hotel
Friday, 16 September 2006
1:30 to 5:30 PM