By Vladimir Mokiy
In 1990, specialists from the Russian School of Transdisciplinarity began to develop the type of systems transdisciplinarity proposed by Erich Jantsch in 1972. He argued for the coordination of all disciplines and interdisciplines in the education and innovation system on the basis of a generalized axiomatic and an emerging epistemological pattern.
Since this approach has a philosophical rationale, conceptual and methodological basis, and appropriate technological methods, it can be considered as an independent metadiscipline – systems transdisciplinarity.
Transdisciplinarity as a meta-discipline has the following basic attributes:
- a meta-theory; and,
- a meta-narrative.
The purpose of the meta-theory of transdisciplinarity is to create a picture of the one and only world. Disciplinary (local) pictures of the world, in this case, are considered as abstract models of certain areas (fragments) of the one and only world. As a result, the meta-theory of transdisciplinarity appears to be a scheme that defines the way and context of building scientific models of the researched areas (fragments) of reality. Such a scheme, because of its abstract nature, provides a transdisciplinary interpretation of the results of modeling the fragments of reality within the framework of different disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches.
Meta-narrative is a universal system of notions, signs, symbols, and models, which aims to create a single type of description of objects and the presentation of interrelated events in the picture of the one and only world. This meta-narrative summarizes the knowledge and languages of scientific disciplines, as well as cultural and semantic discourses (areas of interaction).
General provisions of a systems transdisciplinary approach
The systems transdisciplinary approach is based on the philosophic principles of unicentrism. In a broad sense, unicentrism is a position in philosophy and in science that is based on the problem of the correlation between the unity and its fragments.
This position is based on the isomorphism (similarity) of the general order of the structure of fragments of space, the attributes of information, and the periods of time that are able to describe the one and only world. Any objects at all levels of the reality of the one and only world are its natural elements and fragments.
Therefore, the main condition for the existence of the one and only world is the existence of a general order in it (transdisciplinary system). As the name implies, it follows that this order must manifest itself everywhere: in every element and fragment of this world and in every interaction of these elements and fragments at every level of reality.
As a result, the same order should ensure the achievement of activity goals and results of all these elements and fragments. In addition, it should synchronize these goals and results. For this reason, the one and only world is a One Orderly Medium.
Therefore, the order determining unity is not revealed in the course of systems transdisciplinary research of a complex object. It is not formed subjectively as happens in other types of systems approaches. Instead, it is postulated through systems transdisciplinary models of the spatial, informational, and temporal units of order:
- The model of a spatial unit of order provides substantiation for the physical and/or logical object boundaries and the nature of relations between elements within these boundaries.
- The model of an informational unit of order provides substantiation for the necessary and sufficient amount of information on the object.
- The model of a temporal unit of order shows the organization of converting the internal potency of an object from the original volume to the results that will be used in the subsequent processes of its conversion.
The world in the form of vertical functional assembly and the system in the form of the general order, which make the conditions for the unity of this assembly, are close to the vision of Ludwig von Bertalanffy with respect to the general systems theory. In 1968 he wrote:
A unitary conception of the world may be based, not upon the possibly futile and certainly farfetched hope finally to reduce all levels of reality to the level of physics, but rather on the isomorphy of laws in different fields. Speaking in “material” language, it means that the world, i.e., the total of observable events, shows structural uniformities, manifesting themselves by isomorphic traces of order in the different levels or realms. (pp. 48-49)
Recognising transdisciplinarity as a metadiscipline
Endowing transdisciplinarity with the traditional attributes of scientific discipline – philosophical substantiation, concept, methodology, technological solutions – makes it possible to organically integrate it into the existing classification of scientific directions and scientific approaches.
In turn, the creation of textbooks, manuals, and training programs, as well as the organization of special training and retraining of teachers will allow us to organically integrate this transdisciplinary meta-discipline into the educational process of universities. This will then make it possible to change the attitude towards the transdisciplinarity of academic researchers and practitioners as a marginal experience not integrated into the structure of universities.
What do you think of the proposal that systemic transdisciplinarity is a metadiscipline? How would you like to see it integrated into the educational processes of universities? What problems can arise with such a targeted reform of higher education?
To find out more:
Mokiy, V. S. (2019). International standard of transdisciplinary education and transdisciplinary competence. Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, 22: 73-90. (Online – open access) (DOI): https://doi.org/10.28945/4480
94 questions and answers on Transdisciplinarity: http://td-science.ru/index.php/transdisciplinarity-f-a-q
Bertalanffy, L. V. (1968). General system theory: Foundations, development, applications. George Braziller: New York, United States of America
Jantsch, E. (1972). Towards interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in education and innovation. In Interdisciplinarity: Problems of teaching and research in universities. OECD Publication 99, 105-106, Paris, France. (Online): https://archive.org/details/ERIC_ED061895/page/n101
Biography: Vladimir Mokiy PhD is Head of the Russian School of Transdisciplinarity and Director of the Institute of Transdisciplinary Technologies, Nalchik, Russia. His research focuses on creating the philosophy and methodology of a systems transdisciplinary approach as an independent scientific discipline.