CactusMaya
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For some absurd reason I decided to choose the first ToK essay title and I'm finding it really hard. Is anyone else doing it that would be willing to help??

The question is:
“The fields of study of academic disciplines can overlap, but adopting interdisciplinary approaches to the production of knowledge leads only to confusion.” Discuss this claim.

I've started to figure out what is meant by' interdisciplinary', and have started constructing some ideas, but the more I think about what I'm trying to say, the least I am able to say it!!
What have other people been writing? What examples have you been talking about? (I won't take your ideas, it is just for inspiration, honestly...I am so stuck!)

P.S... I am the only one in my year group doing this essay title lol

Thank you
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Joe312
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Hello

I tutor A level Philosophy and RS but not the IB ToK thing I'm afraid!

However I can tell you that 'interdisciplinary' means when two different disciplines work together on the same topic, bringing each of their knowledge-producing methods to bear in finding things out on that topic.

For example:

Psychology and sociology. Imagine we wanted to find out why a certain population of people were spending so much money on lottery tickets.

Psychology would study what's going on in their mind, their emotions, thoughts, self-perception, and so on. They would gain this knowledge through surveys and experiments.

Sociology would study things like their socio-economic background and the ideas in their culture. They would gain this knowledge through studying population data, reaching literature the culture produced, doing 'ethnographies' where they go and immerse themselves in the culture and think about it.

So if a psychologist worked with a Sociologist, they would create an interdisciplinary understanding of that population based on their two different knowledge-producing methods. They would then have to think about how to fuse their findings together into a cohesive whole.

This is where it gets difficult, or, 'confusing' as your essay title says - because psychologists and sociologists are trained in and used to their own methods of gaining knowledge and wouldn't be able to instantly see how knowledge produced from a different method could fit with let alone enhance knowledge produced by their own method.

Psychology and sociology are actually two very similar disciplines and with a little brain power, interdisciplinary knowledge can be figured out between them. With other disciplines like Art and Physics it's much harder to achieve. Perhaps even impossible! Who knows...
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CactusMaya
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(Original post by Joe312)
Hello

I tutor A level Philosophy and RS but not the IB ToK thing I'm afraid!

However I can tell you that 'interdisciplinary' means when two different disciplines work together on the same topic, bringing each of their knowledge-producing methods to bear in finding things out on that topic.

For example:

Psychology and sociology. Imagine we wanted to find out why a certain population of people were spending so much money on lottery tickets.

Psychology would study what's going on in their mind, their emotions, thoughts, self-perception, and so on. They would gain this knowledge through surveys and experiments.

Sociology would study things like their socio-economic background and the ideas in their culture. They would gain this knowledge through studying population data, reaching literature the culture produced, doing 'ethnographies' where they go and immerse themselves in the culture and think about it.

So if a psychologist worked with a Sociologist, they would create an interdisciplinary understanding of that population based on their two different knowledge-producing methods. They would then have to think about how to fuse their findings together into a cohesive whole.

This is where it gets difficult, or, 'confusing' as your essay title says - because psychologists and sociologists are trained in and used to their own methods of gaining knowledge and wouldn't be able to instantly see how knowledge produced from a different method could fit with let alone enhance knowledge produced by their own method.

Psychology and sociology are actually two very similar disciplines and with a little brain power, interdisciplinary knowledge can be figured out between them. With other disciplines like Art and Physics it's much harder to achieve. Perhaps even impossible! Who knows...
Thank you so much!! I really appreciate the time you have taken to respond to this, and it is really helpful!

I just have one question. In the essay, my teacher suggested that I clarify the difference between an 'interdisciplinary' approach and 'multiple' approaches. I define the latter as different subjects, with their own tools (methods, language etc), that each look at an issue but they are self-contained. Whereas the interdisciplinary approach consists of one field of study which uses its own sets of tools (including its own methods and language) to address specific knowledge issues.

In my eyes, the example you present here is more of a multiple approach? How would I make this work, in your opinion, or should I just mention it but then not pay too much attention to it in the essay later?

Many thanks
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Joe312
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You are right that interdisciplinary approaches consists of one field of study - however for it to be interdisciplinary it must be a fusion of multiple approaches into one.

So (psychology + sociology) when fused together = social psychology

If the psychologist and sociologist did not attempt to fuse their findings together however, they would have multiple approaches separate from each other rather than an interdisciplinary approach which takes multiple approaches and attempts to join them into one approach.

I have no idea what sort of examples you are meant to use but hopefully this gives you an idea of what makes something interdisciplinary!
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CactusMaya
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(Original post by Joe312)
You are right that interdisciplinary approaches consists of one field of study - however for it to be interdisciplinary it must be a fusion of multiple approaches into one.

So (psychology + sociology) when fused together = social psychology

If the psychologist and sociologist did not attempt to fuse their findings together however, they would have multiple approaches separate from each other rather than an interdisciplinary approach which takes multiple approaches and attempts to join them into one approach.

I have no idea what sort of examples you are meant to use but hopefully this gives you an idea of what makes something interdisciplinary!

Thanks Joe, this helps a lot. I am trying to write up the essay now.
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Joe312
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I think what the question is really getting at is this:

Imagine I was looking at a tree, and wanted to gain knowledge about it. It seems there are many 'types' of knowledge I could find, and the method for finding each of them seems very different.

Eg, I could want to know:

How much the tree weighed (physics/maths)
How to make the tree into paper (chemistry)
How the tree came to exist (biology)
Whether and why the tree is beautiful (Art)
What the tree and nature mean to the human mind (psychology)

This is why knowledge-seeking is divided into different disciplines based on the type of knowledge being sought.

Mathematical Knowledge about the weight of the tree is not going to be relevant to the Artistic knowledge of whether it is beautiful.

So that seems to suggest that maths and art should be separate multiple approaches.

However, what if we discovered that our perception of beauty is fed into by mathematical things such as symmetry and pattern. For example, a tree is merely each branch dividing into two smaller branches. You could draw a whole tree this way, starting with the middle branch as the 'trunk' and ending up with the 'twigs'.

So maybe there is something mathematical about art and beauty. This could mean that an interdisciplinary field combining art and mathematics would work well to find new knowledge there.

In other words, some knowledge fits interdisciplinary study better than others. The mathematical weight of the tree has no relevance to art, and the beauty of the tree has no relevance to mathematics and it would merely be confusing to attempt to suggest a relevance there. However, that there may be a mathematical element to aesthetic perception is a topic which bridges both disciplines and doesn't seem to be a confused attempt to join two disciplines which are irrelevant to each other.

This ToK stuff is pretty interesting I might look into teaching it next year.
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CactusMaya
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(Original post by Joe312)
I think what the question is really getting at is this:

Imagine I was looking at a tree, and wanted to gain knowledge about it. It seems there are many 'types' of knowledge I could find, and the method for finding each of them seems very different.

Eg, I could want to know:

How much the tree weighed (physics/maths)
How to make the tree into paper (chemistry)
How the tree came to exist (biology)
Whether and why the tree is beautiful (Art)
What the tree and nature mean to the human mind (psychology)

This is why knowledge-seeking is divided into different disciplines based on the type of knowledge being sought.

Mathematical Knowledge about the weight of the tree is not going to be relevant to the Artistic knowledge of whether it is beautiful.

So that seems to suggest that maths and art should be separate multiple approaches.

However, what if we discovered that our perception of beauty is fed into by mathematical things such as symmetry and pattern. For example, a tree is merely each branch dividing into two smaller branches. You could draw a whole tree this way, starting with the middle branch as the 'trunk' and ending up with the 'twigs'.

So maybe there is something mathematical about art and beauty. This could mean that an interdisciplinary field combining art and mathematics would work well to find new knowledge there.

In other words, some knowledge fits interdisciplinary study better than others. The mathematical weight of the tree has no relevance to art, and the beauty of the tree has no relevance to mathematics and it would merely be confusing to attempt to suggest a relevance there. However, that there may be a mathematical element to aesthetic perception is a topic which bridges both disciplines and doesn't seem to be a confused attempt to join two disciplines which are irrelevant to each other.

This ToK stuff is pretty interesting I might look into teaching it next year.

Sorry I only just replied, but thank you so much for this contribution!! This really helped me write my essay (I am just about finishing my first draft now). When I got to class over the Christmas break my teacher told us that the harder you are finding the essay, the better it probably is. So hopefully it'll be okay haha. Thanks again.
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