Interdisciplinarity: goals and conditions


paradigmi_big“Our view of interdisciplinarity takes very seriously the long training any specialist has to undertake in order to acquire the huge knowledge and the tuned epistemological attitudes necessary to master his or her research methods and protocols. Indeed, we think that a successful interdisciplinary project would educate its participants into this respectful view of anyone else’s training, getting rid of the naïve idea that others’ jobs are useless or easy to do. For sure, the expected result is not that one researcher ‘absorbs’ the others who become superfluous.”

Brambilla R, Serrelli E (2016). The goals and conditions of successful interdisciplinarity. Some critical guidelines in planning, managing and evaluating interdisciplinary projects. Paradigmi. Rivista di critica filosofica 2/2016: 151-169. ISSN 1120-3404 [DOI 10.3280/PARA2016-002012]


This conceptual analysis calls for deeper critical reflection on the goals and conditions of interdisciplinarity. The “surplus of knowledge” expected from interdisciplinarity should be interpreted as the production of new ways of thinking, leaving recognizable traces in the involved disciplines. Particular conditions for success should be taken into account when planning and evaluating interdisciplinary endeavours: an object, a goal, regular shared practices, and the researchers’ capacities for believing in and sticking to specific attitudes. The highest goal of interdisciplinarity – the transformation of society and culture – is related to the meaning and effects of research, and to science’s placement in contemporary society.


interdisciplinarity, philosophy of science, pedagogy, education, research, social organization of knowledge


“…A third condition for interdisciplinary success is the existence, among single disciplines and researchers, of a specific and shared goal, an aim en-dowed with the strength of holding together different fields notwithstand-ing deep differences. To be sure, knowledge in our historical period is run-ning some risks. Ambitions to more power, more money, more importance, more visibility, more publications in the different disciplinary sectors risk to become the primary goals. Particularly in recent years, organizational features of single disciplines, such as cumulativity, peer-review, evaluation criteria, groups of power, academic fashion and fundraising, inevitably and constantly tend to push disciplines toward self-referentiality and academi-cism (Gibbons et al., cit.; Stichweh, 2003). That is why we claim that only a really shared goal can help researchers to overcome these big difficulties.”

“…Sometimes it argued that scientific practices are, rather, an object of sociology of science, but sociology and philosophy differ by their approach (the aspects of practice they deal with), not by their objects.”