Living the Interdisciplinarity Life

How many times have I heard “why are you doing that”, “what are you going to do with those subjects”, and “oh that’s interesting” followed by an awkward pause when I tell people I study biology and English? Too many times. It makes sense to me, but to other people, studying two distinct disciples is a foreign idea. After being questioned all the time, I began to wonder whether or not it was a good idea to study two different fields at one time. What was the reasoning behind my major/minor decision? I had no intention of reconsidering my studies, but it did make me reflect on why I did what I did. I thought that I just liked the two subjects and that was a good enough reason, but I never really considered if there was a stronger driving force. Then I read the introduction to Interdisciplinarity and it reassured my thought process.

In Moran’s Interdisciplinarity, there was a particular section that I read and found to be, well… profound. In this section, Moran mentions the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea regarding the disciplines leading to greed and self-interest. This wasn’t the best part, though! Moran goes on to say that, “For Nietzsche, the specialized scholar was concerned less with knowledge for its own sake than with climbing up the career ladder.” This may not seem that exciting, but regarding my own personal experience, this directly identified how I felt. I find it restricting to pick one thing that I find interesting and running with that field exclusively. Especially given the increasing emphasis of grades in college, think GREs; GPA; MCATs; etc., and the emphasis of money, fame, and perfection equating to happiness in society, I think people don’t study what they really enjoy.  Again, I may be wrong, but people pick a career path that includes high compensation and they are focused on being excellent at that one thing. In order to do that, you have to do just one thing. In my opinion, that’s why  people ask me about my two distinct areas of study: they’re different, and because I’m not sticking to just one field, I must not be devoting enough time to being perfect. My interest are too spread out to be successful in the eyes of society. How can I ever  excel, make money, and “climb the career ladder” when I study two different things? I must certainly not be focused enough.  Well, my response is: why can’t I be focused and successful in two things? I think there needs to be a greater emphasis on learning for the sake of learning rather than making an application studded with A’s. Either that or showing undivided interest in one subject to get into graduate school.  I think life without interdisciplinarity is kind of boring. People’s interests are not two-dimensional, they are complex and vary over a wide array of subjects and I find necessity in embracing this to a much greater scale in college and in society.

The final note I would like to say is regarding the class discussion on the word “dissect.” The discussion on this word reiterates what I said in the previous paragraph very well. Our everyday life, specifically the words we choose to use, are influenced by many distinct disciplines. Everyday life does not separate itself into distinct disciplines that never communicate, on the contrary, every subject is informed and influenced by many other subjects, even if they seem unrelated. Simply put, we live a life of interdisciplinarity. I also chose to use this example because it is a prime use of biology and English coming together, so please stop telling me that bio and English have nothing in common. Ok?



2 Replies to “Living the Interdisciplinarity Life”

  1. I noticed this post as being in conversation with Arisa’s concerning what seems to be a growing worldwide ideal of “devoting enough time to being perfect,” as you describe it. Diversity is important not only within the world, but as your post argues (and with which I agree) within ourselves. I also find Arisa’s comment interesting–that in other countries, students are even more specialized than in the U.S. I’d be interested in seeing how the university is structured in other parts of the world.

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