EGOISTICAL ERROR: Some specialists consider their sciences as being superior to others
THE best minds have always been multidisciplinary from the outset, or on the journey of intellectual and academic development.
The acumen of knowledge acquired by those with multidisciplinary minds has always been applied to some purpose, such as for the betterment of mankind. Academic specialisations have created a narrow focus on knowledge and have limited the synergy of contributions by integrated use of knowledge, particularly in development.
Within the compartmentalisation of knowledge disciplines, there evolved modes of thinking of academic disciplines. Within the modes of thought are the theories and the schools of thought. And within the explicit contents and processes are the unexpressed disciplinary hierarchies.
British scientist C. P. Snow observed the phenomenon of the "two cultures" -- the arts and sciences.
Whether debated publicly or assumed in silence, based on opinions, ego and ignorance, knowledge specialists in particular areas of studies may consider their sciences of more importance and superior to others.
So, those in the so-called pure professions, considered the hard sciences, are regarded as superior to the social sciences and humanities.
Such unexamined and unseated self-constructed academic heraldry are actually self-limiting and society-limiting.
New generations of learners and scholars in particular areas of academic specialisations subtly or blatantly propagate the intellectually egoistical error embedded in the community of specialists.
Each university offers thousands of courses. A selection of these courses, defined as core and electives, become degree programmes.
Degrees in particular areas, typically calculated as 120 credits, certify that a person has basic mastery of the field of knowledge. It has been noted that for a person to master a field of knowledge, at least 10,000 hours of serious and focused study must be assigned for the discipline.
Those who think of the supremacy of their discipline over all others neither understand their own disciplines profoundly nor have the knowledge of other disciplines, either in general or deeply.
The fiction of the superiority of a discipline at an individual level is the fiction of 120 credits or approximately 10,000 hours of study. There is more to knowledge in the Heavens and on Earth than credit hours.
Whatever the modes of thought of any discipline or field of study, rigorous education is expected to lead to the development of disciplined minds. Such disciplined minds are expected to be open and adaptive to understand what they do not know, but not to be closed and to reject new experiences, knowledge and insights.
Knowledge disciplines should lead to the cultivation of the potentialities of the human mind. The disciplined human mind is enabled to exercise intellect at the most exquisite level of awareness of worlds within, and worlds without -- the external world.
The core of knowledge is language, mathematics, values and the meaning of existence. All other knowledge is cumulatively developed around the core.
The recording, transmission and mastery of the core, as well as evolved knowledge, distinguishes man from other living forms that we know.
We have spent our energies to clear our forests and build cities, to produce bureaucrats, technocrats and professionals, and we have neglected historical and philosophic thought and the fine arts because of our acquisitive pursuit of wealth and the material life.
It is time to balance the superficiality of existence of the pioneers of physical development and wealth creation, with the meditative and artistic souls.
A people must have life, live life before they philosophise. It is also possible to simultaneously live and philosophise.
As a society, although we still have poverty around us, we have become wealthy, and wealth is the prelude for the development of the arts and for artistic expressions.
As a society, we have become disturbed and unbalanced because we have not developed holistically. Now is the time to reform and transform for true and meaningful balance.
Our refined cultures must catch up with our physical possessions. As our society develops, there will be greater souls than Socrates, Ibn Khaldun or William Shakespeare, or greater minds than Stephen Hawking or other Nobel Laureate icons in whatever fields.
A society does not realise its fullest knowledge potentialities if its academic and thought leaders do not think holistically and think beyond the narrowness and silos of learned specialisations.
Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid | firstname.lastname@example.org is a deputy vice-chancellor, INTI Laureate International University. New Straits Times Columnist 25 January 2013