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Category Archives: Interdiscipline

Ira and I were talking about how trying to do interdisciplinary work often makes you feel like a dilettante, and I came across a relevant passage in an article about the disciplines by Max Weber:

“Scientifically, a dilettante’s idea may have the very same or even a greater bearing for science than that of a specialist. Many of our very best hypotheses and insights are due precisely to dilettantes. The dilettante differs from the expert . . . only in that he lacks a firm and reliable work procedure. Consequently he is usually not in the position to control, to estimate, or to exploit the idea in its bearings. The [dilettante’s] idea is not a substitute for [the expert’s] work; and work, in turn, cannot substitute for or compel an idea, just as little as enthusiasm can. Both, enthusiasm and work, and above all both of them jointly, can entice the idea.” from “Science as a Vocation” (1918)

It seems to me that academic researchers do make use of the dilettante’s fresh perspective as a source for ideas every time they introduce a new student to their discipline. But for us, “enticing” interdiscplinary digital research into existence might require (to extrapolate from Weber) cultivating a kind of generosity, allowing and even fostering a dilettantish and perhaps painful poking around in any discipline’s basic assumptions. cris, have you dealt with this in collaborations?

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