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4.1.1 -

Plenary 1: What is Transdisciplinarity ? Prof. Gavan J. McDonell (University of New South Wales, Australia)

Prof. McDonell

started his reflection by making

concepts

of

“multidisciplinarity”,

“ interdisciplinarity”

a clear distinction between and “transdisciplinarity”.

the

On the one hand he suggested calling “multi-disciplinary

studies” a ctcollaboration

among experts, associative, i.e.

members where the

of different disciplines, work of each of them is

where the relation added to that of all

among them the others)).

is

On the other hand he suggested that in “interdisciplina~

studies” the ctconnection is

relationah

i.e. ccthedisciplines

the assumptions

and worldviews

collaborate in such a and languages of the

way that others)).

each takes up some of

In the view of Prof. McDonell, transdisciplinarity differs from interdisciplinarity in its capability to give birth to a “meta-language”.

Specifically, in an interdisciplinary dimension, the single disciplines tend to establish

only a rudimentary level collaboration.

On the contrary, within a transdisciplinary

dimension a common transcendent language arises, allowing the level of sharing needed to generate an entirely “new intellectual space” through which fragmentation

of knowledge can be contrasted and issues properly addressed.

Transdisciplinarity therefore would exist, according to his model,

((where the

integrating relationship is taken to the extent of there being a transcendent language,

a meta-language, in which the terms of all the participant expressed)).

disciplines are, or can be,

From this point of view, he clarified that the concept of transdisciplinarity c&an& in a

long line of endeavours to produce knowledge and universal language)).

the linked accomplishments

of integrated

Prof. McDonell then d’Alambert, Condorcet

recalled “L ‘Encyclop&die”,

the famous project of Diderot,

and

other

“philosophes”

which

was

intended

to

include

all

the

knowledge worth knowing - a perfect language”.

as well as Umberto Eco’s speculation on the “search for

He stressed hbw ((the hope that human endeavour was capable of producing forms of knowledge)) which could express ctreliable, comprehensive and universally rational accounts of the world)) lies ctin the search for comprehensive knowledge and universal Ianguage>~.

Consequently, Prof. McDonell shared his conviction on the importance of

transdisciplinary also emphasized

approach, which he sees as a “transdisciplinary

relief’.

the need to be aware of the difficulties

of this intellectual

elaborating a However, he path.

In this regard, he drew a ctsuggestionJLom the claim about forms of knowledge being the production of specifr‘cforms of culture)>.

21

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