Need for Interdisciplinary Learning | 2017-08-17 |

Need for Interdisciplinary Learning

Sun Online Desk     17th August, 2017 09:20:33 printer

Need for Interdisciplinary Learning

Gary Saul Morson of Northwestern University, a co-author of Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities, a wonderful book on humanities and a dialogue between economics and humanities, puts an outstanding opinion in the project syndicate in the caption as “Economics with a Humanities Face” that society needs a very comprehensive approach to be more sustainable where learning of economic study or any other single branch is substantially inadequate. He also mentions that major American professors of different disciplines including psychology and sociology think that inter disciplinary learning is better to possess knowledge.

But, the average professors of economics put their conservative view and some of them bluntly stress that economics has nothing to learn from others. Morson didn’t accept the partial opinion of those professors and proposes an alternative. He argues that study of economics alone can’t always be effective to development. For obvious reason, this essay will be a supportive conundrum of Morson in a broader perspective which unequivocally presses the demand that moral and cultural studies can cure our troubles than a singular branch of human knowledge.



In Marxist thoughts, it is dogmatically pushed over the relationship between structure and superstructure which says, all society must have an economic basis which is the structure in Marxist language whereas many things, ideology, philosophy, religion, culture for example, are flourished upon the basis of structure. This is termed as superstructure. It is emphatically denied that superstructure has anything to do on structure. Fifty-eight per cent of American professors of economics in the survey disclaim the role of inter-disciplinary lens to put forward knowledge of development. But, it is rather fatal.


At present, human knowledge has been greatly interlocked with cross disciplines so that no single branch can be enterprisingly supreme than others. No doubt, study on economics obviously comes to the front in the present day particularly but without the knowledge of social study and cultural philosophy it is quite blind. Morson says, “Economists would benefit greatly if they broadened their focus”. He also points that this study has much to learn from the humanities.


For example, I suppose that per capita income of most of the countries in the Middle East was astounding couple of years back, Qatar- 68,940$, Iraq-4,696$ for example, but now, social integrity and state coherence have been at stake due to lack of cultural and humanities studies. Besides, people don’t seek their happy findings here and prefer to leave for better place. The greatest exodus from the Middle East to Europe now becomes the dangerous threat to humanity.


It doesn’t mean that people so far studied economics so they become in peril; it actually indicates the plight of the society where multi-cultural studies and practices had been denied.


Morson emphasised the need to understand the people as cultural being. No mathematics or statistics can purely unfold the nature of human being as the rotation of Earth or Mars is mathematically projected. As human nature is peculiarly diversified no social mathematics can purely demonstrate the real problem of life. For obvious reason, it follows the course of human life as narrativeness which is best expressed as distinct way of understanding of the social world. Amartya Sen in his social choice theory puts emphasis on group decision as human being is supposed to be social being. Indeed, for their own purpose, collective decision becomes remarkably potential for group interest. And, social scientist in history attempted to find out a mutual understanding within the diverse phenomena. I am sure professor Sen’s theory is much akin to the theory of Morson where some of the elements overlap one another. Amartya Sen finally disclaims any economic theory without social welfare can cure our social trouble.


Morson believes that famous novelists in history Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, George Eliot, Jane Austen among many provoke ethical questions across their novel which calls for empathy and good judgment. All the ethical questions and moral judgment raised by the novelists in literary history are really understandable.


The character of novel is often intervened with different social circumstances that finally possess the situation including religion, gender, sexual orientation, culture, disparity, equity, racism, xenophobia of a state and society. Reading of novel gives the taste of one by placing him in others’ shoes. So, the action of human mind necessarily involves with social change and development.


Indeed, interdisciplinary learning creates comprehensive knowledge than the knowledge built by single discipline-specific studies. At present, university education is largely diversified and related branches of the main stream have been brought under curriculum although it largely means specified place of learning. In turn, economics is also taught along with some broad lines including political science, sociology, psychology, history and English.


In recent years, it is conceived that no branches of knowledge disregarding their so-called boundaries is supposed to be complete without having affiliation to moral studies. It happens for neither science nor business studies. Today’s education system has become economic and students prefer those learning which would give him good fortune in future. As a consequence, some bad results impacted on human soul. The aim of education, thus, is not to create some formula or equation or even to the means of earning but to create good cognitive man. The aim of education is also to find a way to govern ourselves in order to mould the mind. Moral science does sharpen our faculty of moral understanding and provide the knowledge to make the difference between right and wrong. Science itself is blind when it is applied to the field of practice without having been affiliated to its consequential learning. The N-bomb is the best example for the scientist which is the supreme idea of human cognition but the uncouth form of morality. When you are doing best thing in the world don’t forget to assume the result which might be brought after.


Morson very rightly acknowledges the achievement of economic theory in history but humanomics creates a space to invoke the dialogue between them.     


The writer is the Chairperson, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Jagannath University, Dhaka