Mark Christensen

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I have a strong interest in philosophy. I'm also an avid generalist who believes that much of the jargon of contemporary academics is designed (intentionally or unintentionally) to "keep outsiders out." Though this does some good by setting some kind of bottom limit on those allowed into a specific academic community (only those who understand and use the jargon correctly are allowed in) this modest gain is offset by a tremendous loss in interdisciplinary work, which I believe to be absolutely essential to creating scholarly work with real world relevance.

My largest project so far is to create the List of philosophical topics, and start filling them in. I'm also plaining on trying to recruit some other philosophers to help out.

/To Do -- very out of date /Neutrality problems /Faith and science talk


Couldn't agree more with you on the contents of the first paragraph. I too see myself as a specialist in generality. I think that the field is bound to grow in the years to come. Seb

Yes and no. I have academic training in mathematics, geology and civil engineering. Jargon is an unfortunate consequence of the need for precision. For example, one might ask what, exactly, is "normal" about a normal operator... turns out that this has a very precise definition, which is much easier to state than "an operator that commutes with its adjoint". You are quite correct about the barrier to interdisciplinary research, but, frankly, "interdisciplinary" seems most often to be a buzz word inflicted by administrators in funding agencies etc. on proposal writers and faculty applicants. I can assure you, as someone with very strong interdisciplinary skills applying for faculty positions, that it would be far easier to obtain employment had I the "specialty du jour". Let's hope that specialists in generality grow in importance in the years to come...
I agree that some jargon is valuable, but my experience as a lit. student leads me to believe that even when it's not necessary people invent and use jargon to make their texts more obscure. The main problem with jargon in the lit. field, is that it is not precise, and that it has come to have no other function than to keep outsiders out. In other fields, I've studied the problem is more complex because there is value in brief and clear communication which factors into the use of jargon. Still, it's a common occurrence to see three-penny jargon words used when a simple English word would suffice. A philosopher friend of mine is always "adjudicating between positions" when he could simply be deciding...
I also agree that much of what is done under the guise of interdisciplinary work is just plain bad scholarship, and that's just another part of the problem.

Hmm... "Will the real interdisciplinary people please stand up?" I agree that interdisciplinarity is presently being given a bad name by all sorts of opportunists. But in my opinion there is room for "good" interdisciplinary work. For instance, I'm thinking of synthetic work that points out the commonalities between the ways things are done in different fields. There are many different-but-actually-the-same jargon words out there. Things can get pretty exciting when you finally find the name that has been given in a particular field to what you're interested in. It opens up different ways of thinking about it. And prevents you from reinventing the wheel. I wonder how many people have unknowingly reinvented mathematical structures and ideas, just because they didn't know they had already been explored? In a way, math is the meta-jargon that binds a lot of things together... --Seb

Have a look at Tied knowledge by Brian Martin for related lines of thought...