The Unifying Aspects of Cultures


The Unifying Method of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences: The Method of Transdisciplinarity

Josephine Papst (University of Graz, Austria)
From the structure and signs to the perspective of beyondness or transdisciplinarity

The most elementary demand of human beings is to understand - to understand the world and themselves, and since human beings are individuals to understand herself. For the sake of coming up to such an understanding human beings do perform the different kinds of investigations to get an appropriate picture of the world in its physical features and of their worlds that are symbolic ones based on a mental reality or mental realities.

Nowadays, the most dominant and the most powerful means of world-picturing is science. Sciences of the various kinds with the use of more or less clear methods to achieve something that is still called scientific truth. Understanding has been replaced by knowing, namely knowing scientifically collected data that became a so-called scientific interpretation based on methods of measurement. Methods of measurement are taken to be objective, however, reality has became reduced to a local data-world in terms of a particular discipline that can no longer claim to picture the world whether in its physical structure nor in its symbolic structure and to get scientific truth.

To achieve understanding the starting point of understanding has to be taken seriously - the self with its innate mental reality that is composed by its structure and its introspective mental activities sensitive towards truth and values and aesthetic features. The means of expression are the various symbolic systems, such as natural languages, formal languages - mathematics, logic, geometry -, music, colours and lines. A few of the symbolic systems are used by sciences others are used by arts - poetry, music, and arts.

The most elementary symbolic notions of the structure of reality are the indexicals "I", "now" and "here" that are subsymbols because of their openness with regard to their content and their immanent or direct connectedness between the mental and the physical reality as well as between natural and symbolic signs.

To understand reality means to achieve a perspective beyond a particular discipline or a collection of particular disciplines to give the natural and symbolic signs the appropriate interpretation. Whether or not such a perspective of transdisciplinarity might become achieved in terms of sciences, at least methodologically, is an open question. Whether or not such a kind of a perspective of beyondness or transdisciplinarity might be that of ethics and aesthetics in terms of arts - poetry, music and arts - is an open question, too. How can human beings with their limited capacities achieve a perspective of beyondness or transdiciplinarity when they have to start with natural and symbolic signs that are to be understood. To understand these natural and symbolic signs in a particular context adequately presupposes an interpretation from the perspective of beyondness or transdisciplinarity to come up to an adequate understanding of reality to provide an adequate picture of reality.

These questions and issues evoke serious difficulties that will be focused on in this paper.