A Millennial Teacher’s Analysis of Transdisciplinarity as a Framework for Peace

“Since war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed” — UNESCO Preamble

Established in the early dawn following the Second World War, the UNESCO stands as the structural manifestation of modern civilization’s most fundamental pursuit — peace.

Peace here, however, cannot be defined solely as the absence of conflict or war. It is an active process geared at the holistic improvement of society and the individual, with all its objectives centered on the utopian values of social justice and, to the extent permitted by nature, equality. Key to the pursuit of such grand objectives is transdisciplinarity, as expressed in Antonella Verdiani’s interview of Archibald McLeish — one of the principal architects of the organization.

As defined by poet Roberto Juarroz, the transdisciplinary language “is language that is globalizing or holistic. It is an axis-language, a language at the center of all the other languages.” Concerning this definition, it is important to note that “language” as used here pertains to the sciences, inclusive of mathematics, and the humanities.

The definition must thus be taken as an allusion towards a method of transgression: in culture, race, domain, gender, and socio-economic divide. Transdisciplinarity in this light, attempts to weave together the factions that have haunted humanity through the fusion of what cumulative knowledge and wisdom our species have acquired since its inception.

Transdisciplinarity and all that it embodies is a mountain in itself, where the zenith holds the view of the most elementary aspirations of humanity. Another metaphor for it which better suits Juarroz’s earlier definition is the completion of the tower of Babylon and the unification of our fragmented languages. The enormity of its concepts, its weight and its significance, puts transdisciplinarity at the limelight of momentary disbelief, something that has not escaped the analysis of sociologist Johan Galtung.

In a localized example of transdisciplinarity among the social sciences, he puts emphasis on the tendency of such disciplines to overshadow human beings in lieu of structure, culture, and institutions. He puts forth the idea of studying peace in the context of the individual’s “fulfillment and reduction of suffering”. This view is explicitly shared by Antonella, stating that “one must go beyond politics or the use made of politics, to observe the genuine transformation which is underway with individuals”. Furthermore, she states that in terms of the globalized infusion of the culture of peace, progress is still far at the level of governments.

This rather damp view on our progress towards peace by means of transdisciplinarity may, as Galtung proposes, have its origins at the core of the sciences and humanities themselves. Being products of not only the Enlightenment but also of the post-Westphalian state system in the 17th century, it is not difficult to deduce hypotheses on why these disciplines, particularly those concerning human interrelationships, have crystallized into intellectual machinations geared towards the understanding of the state more so than the individual. The reconciliation of this incompatibility between these disciplines and the localized inculcation of peace lies at the heart of transdisciplinarity’s primary pursuits.

As quantum physicist and poet Basarab Nicolescu purports, we have arrived at the epoch in which scientific sophistication has allowed the possibility for total self-annihilation by way of nuclear technology. We are at the precipice of a war that, if allowed to arise, would have the possibility of eliminating existence as we know it. The necessity for a culture of peace, for the disassembling of the logic of war as preventive rather than destructive, is paramount.

To achieve this, he deduces that the binary logic with which all the institutions we have crafted throughout history — economic, political, judicial, must encompass not only the perspective of inter-state conflict resolutions but also that of the most miniscule of individuals, regardless of territory or affiliations. Transdisciplinarity encroaches the dichotomized mode of thinking that has concretized the largest problems that our civilization faces today. Central to this mode is the separation of the “knowing subject and Reality”, of the distinct and seemingly impregnable line drawn by scientism that has since divided human knowledge into those harboring empirical “truths”, and those that are merely “subjective”. On this, Nicolescu states:

“Objectivity, set up as the supreme criterion of Truth, has one inevitable consequence: the transformation of the Subject into an Object. The death of the Subject is the price we pay for objective knowledge. The human being became an object — an object of the exploitation of man by man, an object of the experiments of ideologies which are proclaimed scientific, an object of scientific studies to be dissected, formalized, and manipulated. The Man-God has become a Man-Object, of which the only result can be self-destruction. The two world massacres of this century, not to mention the multiple local wars and terrorism — are only the prelude to self-destruction on a global scale.”

In conjunction to Nicolescu’s proposition, the encompassing perspective of Dieter Senghaas on the nature and origin of violence as a social phenomenon elucidates us on the tremendously complex linkages established between institutions and individuals. This complexity is made blatantly clear by the inability of the much concretized causality methodology to provide unified and encompassing conclusions on several configured problem areas. This, as Senghaas sees it, necessitates the development of research which engages in the analysis of the various facets of individual and social violence, the holistic approach for dismantling structural violence, and the role of mechanisms designed specifically for conflict resolutions.

This, once again, brings us to the irrefutable role of transdisciplinarity in unifying several pertinent disciplines for the achievement of peace, and its much broader role as a completely separate mode of thinking, wherein the individual and the different domains of reality are amalgamated into one harmonious whole.

References

Bernstein, J. (2015). Transdisciplinarity: A Review of Its Origins, Development, and Current Issues. Journal of Research Practice .

Camus, M. (n.d.). The Hidden Hand Between Poetry and Science .

Galtung, J. (2010). Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution:The Need for Transdiciplinarity. Transcultural Psychiatry, 20–32.

Senghaas, D. (1976). Peace Research and the Analysis of the Causes of Social Violence : Transdisciplinarity. Bulletin of Peace Proposals, 64–68.

Verdiani, A. (n.d.). Transdiscipliarity, a Path Toward Peace .

Voss, K.-C. (2001). Review Essay of Basarab Nicolescu’s Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity.

A 22-year old educator and poet by heart.