Arts and Sciences (BASc)
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Approaches to Knowledge
We take a wide-ranging view
of knowledge from different perspectives. We show that knowledge is not confined to university departments or school syllabi. We focus on the role of interdisciplinarity in breaking down old boundaries of knowledge - and its role in creating new ways of thinking about knowledge.
This course, taken with Interdisciplinary Research Methods, frames the overall approach of the Arts and Sciences (BASc).
What is interdisciplinarity?
In simple terms, interdisciplinarity means combining university subjects together in new and relevant ways to solve problems.
We will explore the study of knowledge through two approaches which embrace interdisciplinarity.
Our first approach can be characterised by looking at ways in which traditional boundaries of knowledge have been dissolved or blown apart. This may be due to forces such as the internet, globalisation or democratisation. So, for example, we look at: What counts as knowing? and ask this question from the point of view of education, psychology, theology and others. We also ask: Who authorises knowledge? and question the importance of expertise, authority and ideology. Finally, we explore the limits of what can be known and investigate the relationship between knowledge and the economy.
In our second approach we look at new ways in which knowledge can be put together and categorised. In particular, we will look at some concepts – sometimes called superconcepts – which span existing disciplines, unite different fields of study under one heading, and can be applied in many areas of thought and study. For example, we study the concept of evolution and see how this can be used in business and anthropology, as well as biology. Among other examples, we will look at the superconcept complexity, which can be used to examine the nature of the interaction of many things, whether they be atoms, people or banks.
You can see that these two approaches show how interdisciplinarity emerges from existing ideas about knowledge in two ways:
- by the gradual breaking down of existing categories of knowledge and ‘subjects’ through the forces of social groups, new media, new cultures, enterprise etc
- by the attempts to draw existing knowledge together under new concepts which can be applied across existing subjects to stimulate powerful new connections
We will use this contrast and tension to question our understanding of knowledge and to work towards a view of what knowledge means for our future selves, our societies, our economies, our value systems.
This course will give you a framework in which to structure your own interdisciplinary knowledge, interests and learning as you move forward on the Arts and Sciences degree. At the end of the course you will be better placed to understand how Arts and Sciences will work best for you, where your academic interests lie and which areas you wish to explore and combine.
You will also have a better understanding of the state of knowledge today, and a range of skills to enable your own interdisciplinary learning.
This course is taught in Term 1 of Year 1.
Broadly, the course will take two approaches to knowledge and to interdisciplinarity:
1) In part 1 we 'deconstruct' knowledge. We will examine the way in which modern society, technology and globalisation has impacted on knowledge by making it more accessible, interconnected, democratic and relative.
Sample lectures in this part of the course include:
- The academic disciplines: Which is most important?
- Authority. The role of tradition, academic certification: whom should you trust? And why?
- Intellectual property. Should you pay for knowledge? Do you pay for your downloads?
- Science vs Art: different ways of knowing?
- Knowledge and the economy.
- The limits of knowledge.
2) Here we will examine the way in which thinkers are bringing together knowledge under new categories: 'reconstructing' knowledge. Here we look at concepts - called Superconcepts - which bridge older disciplines in order to unify areas of thought and to create productive new links.
Sample lectures in this part of the course include:
There are 20 lectures/presentations in the course and 10 tutorials/activities/seminars.
There will be a wide range of
assessment to test students’ learning and engagement with the module. We we will use digital media for some assessment and delivery and may also ask students to do research in London, away from campus, as part of the course.
These are some examples of student work. In these essays students were asked to examine a Superconcept we had studied on the course and to link this Superconcept to one of their Pathway disciplines.
- Econophysics: Entropy and its discontents?
- Evolution and literature
- Evolutionary computation and genetic algorithms
- How can entropy be applied to the arts?
- How does the superconcept: postmodernism relate to psychology?
- The future of Economics is through complexity, not simplicity
All of the examples above will open as PDF documents.