The general characteristic of cybernetic and systemic concepts, methods and models which provide specialists with a metalanguage for the study in common of complex situations in systems.
R. RODRIGUEZ DELGADO writes: "Transdisciplinarity is a global perception of the ultimate connection of all or many disciplines. From this perspective, not only science but all human activities appear as an unitary whole, part and parcel of the unity of universe. Unity and diversity do not appear as opposite concepts, but as complementary perspectives" (Pers. com., 1990).
Transdisciplinarity, as a systemic notion, is quite different from interdisciplinarity, or multidisciplinarity.
P. CHECKLAND writes: "The call for "interdisciplinary teams" to tackle social problems is a popular one, but 30 years' experience in Management Science has emphasized that this is not a successful way to tackle such problems, rather the fact that it is quite remarquably difficult for specialists from one discipline to understand the concepts and language of another.
"What we need is not interdiscipliniary teams, but transdisciplinary concepts, concepts which serves to unify knowledge by being applicable in areas which cut across the trenches which mark traditional academic boundaries" (1976, p.127)
Ch. FRANÇOIS writes: "Transdisciplinarity implies:
"1. The existence of a metalevel of models and concepts, leading to an integrated understanding by every part-taker of the system under study;
"2. The existence of a common metalanguage, based on isomorphies useful to convey generalized concepts and meta models" (1986, p.115).
The creation, for instance, of a meta-model of the possibility to control or regulate complex systems of any kind (i.e. by feedback) may lead the specialists:
- to better understand systems studied by other specialized disciplines
- to collaborate usefully and smoothly in global projects
- in some cases to gain new insights in his/her own discipline and gain much time by avoiding the need to rediscover from scratch concepts or models already in existence.
The creation of such a crosswise "metatools" box is possibly one of the most important goal of systemics and cybernetics.
Accordingly, Russell A. ACKOFF states: "Effective research is not disciplinary, interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary, it is transdisciplinary" (1999, p.426)
And: "The whole can be understood only by viewing it from all the perspectives simultaneously". And moreover: "Science, I believe, consists of the search for similarities among things that are apparently different; the humanities consist of the search for differences among things that are apparently similar. Science and the humanities are the head and tail of reality, viewable separately, but not separable" (Ibid, p.427)
FRANÇOIS adds however a caveat: "Let us be very clear and unambiguous: these general concepts or models are identical representations obtained from different specific situations, interrelations or processes. Each discipline studies it own problems in its own terms. However, there generally exist some common traits underlying apparently dissimilar settings or situations" (Ibid., p.118-9).
Transdisciplinarity should by no means be taken as a possible substitute for specific disciplines.
K.D. BAILEY, in a recent paper (2001, p. 41-62) explored the multiple traps in the construction of what he calls "concept exportation"across disciplinary boundaries. Curiously, while his goal is progress "towards unifying science", he does not use the term "transdisciplinarity", which seems to fullfil exactly his intention and understanding.
- 1) General information
- 2) Methodology or model
- 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
- 4) Human sciences
- 5) Discipline oriented
To cite this page, please use the following information:
Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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