New PDF release: Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the Challenge of

By Stephen H. Kellert

ISBN-10: 0226429784

ISBN-13: 9780226429786

This is often an engaging booklet, yet either its targets and its accomplishments are of a far narrower scope then being "a ebook approximately everything," as one other reviewer placed it. commonly, it is a ebook approximately interdisciplinary metaphors, and the philosophical foundations of a case for such metaphors' being beneficial. besides the fact that, i am not definite if the metaphor in its name is completely successful.

The book's jumping-off aspect is the late-20th Century fad for "chaos theory." even supposing this present day such a lot physicists do not realize it as a different "theory," economists, attorneys and literature students, between others, have been all to satisfied to suck it into their very own educational papers. a few lecturers, specifically a few actual scientists, assault this sort of poaching as illegitimate. Stephen Kellert (SK), who's, as he usually reminds the reader, a "disciplinary pluralist," units out during this booklet to discover the standards that may valid such borrowings, and to contemplate standards for judging while a few borrowings are extra justifed or winning than others.

SK ways those initiatives with the endurance, and from time to time the fussiness, of an instructional thinker. even if a few fields -- e.g. rhetoric and linguistics (and esp. the tradition of the latter that calls itself "critical discourse analysis") -- set themselves initiatives just like SK's, he often manages to be either broader and extra even-tempered. for instance, he has a few attention-grabbing issues to assert approximately how proof and values are various yet no longer constantly solely distinctive; yet, as a pluralist, he can tolerate this ambiguity with no feeling pushed to simply accept relativism. And SK refuses to go into into a few fights, akin to over the legitimacy of neoclassical economics; he explains that the book's undertaking "primarily specializes in the ways in which borrowed wisdom is used in the fields of economics, legislation and literature as they're presently configured within the academy" (@91).

The proverbial normal reader may well locate this deference to the tutorial establishment to be a dilemma of the ebook. additionally, a few elements of the e-book appear to be spent on settling matters that in basic terms teachers may well locate troublesome. E.g., SK spends a few pages asking and answering "Why criticize metaphors?" (@122-124). to discover this kind of query useful, you would most likely need to be an identical bizarre type of one who doubts that your puppy puppy or cat has psychological states. I usually agreed with SK's conclusions approximately particular instances, e.g. approximately economists' use of value-laden phrases like "efficiency" as though they have been someway "value-free," or approximately how a few purported references to chaos have been truly concerning, say, quantum mechanics. yet those conclusions appeared for the main half particularly seen to any reader with a few sensitivity to metaphor, and who took an intro university physics path or reads plenty of renowned physics books.

SK by no means presents a transparent definition of "borrowed knowledge,", even though he comes shut while he describes how a few economists "look over at physicists doing their first-order paintings [i.e., asking questions like, how do atoms work?], borrow a few of their options or instruments, after which use them to appear again at their very own items of analysis in a brand new means. this is often simply the phenomenon of borrowed wisdom" (@27). we are not ever given a transparent definition of "knowledge" both, notwithstanding SK reifies wisdom seriously. not just can wisdom be "borrowed," however it can "produced" (mentions of "knowledge construction" abound, e.g. 20, 30, 43-44, etc.), it "resides in a disciplinary situation" (rather than in, say, peoples' heads) and will be "transported ... and (hopefully) again" (@13).

Some of SK's examples struck me as aptly defined by means of "borrowed knowledge." E.g. he mentions an economics paper that mentioned how chaotic actual phenomena compelled physicists to take advantage of a greater diversity of mathematical types than that they had formerly; the authors concluded that economists should examine that, through analogy, their very own easy linear equations is probably not sufficient to explain financial phenomena (which isn't the same as asserting that monetary phenomena persist with the hot actual models). an excellent clearer instance can be a paper that really demonstrates deterministic chaos within the dynamical habit of a few fiscal phenomenon -- although that may higher be termed an "integration" than a "borrowing".

But what approximately while an individual name-drops "glamorous jargon" (@108) to make their very own paintings, even though beside the point, appear extra very important, smooth, important of investment, and so on. Is it particularly *knowledge* that is being borrowed the following? or is it anything extra like status or an air of trendiness? SK notes that "knowledge creation is usually at the very least partly a question of persuasion (@60);" yet this doesn't suggest that persuasion (esp. of the name-dropping sort) unavoidably involves wisdom production.

In addition to such persuasive makes use of of borrowed wisdom, SK is not any much less drawn to "inventive" makes use of, which relaxation on metaphors. Metaphors can play a "role in producing hypotheses from present conceptualizations and reworking these conceptualizations" (@111), e.g. by way of "defamiliarizing stagnant assumptions" (@114). they could "induce constitution" in a aim box [sc. of data] that lacks constitution, or can "reorder half [of a hugely based field], quickly or completely" (@111). yet the following back calling anything a borrowing of "knowledge" turns out to depend upon what you are doing (examples are my own):

A. "The Mississippi River used to be a wierd attractor for Huck Finn." i have used a buzzword, or even even an idea from chaos thought. yet did I borrow wisdom? Are suggestions enough to represent wisdom? for instance, is "blue" wisdom?

B. "Money is like power, it could actually neither be created nor destroyed." the following i am doing greater than borrowing an idea, i am additionally saying anything to be actual approximately money's relation to different issues (the universe, e.g.), in response to my wisdom approximately power within the actual global. to this point so reliable, however the assertion is fake as to cash, because the US Treasury can print extra of it. should still one say that wisdom has been borrowed unsuccessfully, or simply that it is a awful metaphor (or simile, for rhetorical purists)? Does the reply switch if the context exhibits that my purpose used to be persuasive instead of creative (e.g., that i used to be simply attempting to bamboozle my viewers, who may comprehend subsequent to not anything approximately physics or money)? Now what if the assertion seems to be fake approximately physics, too -- was once there ever any "knowledge" to be borrowed?

My experience from the booklet is that SK could say *all* of those situations count number as "borrowed knowledge". (SK does say that "getting the technology flawed dooms an tried metaphorical borrowing" occasionally, notwithstanding no longer continually, @129-130.) if this is the case, then i believe the word should be too vast to be valuable. Why not only use "borrowed inspiration" or "interdisciplinary analogy" for a few of these instances, rather than lumping all of them less than the "borrowed wisdom" label? SK may possibly justify this on grounds of being a "pluralist," yet for the final reader "knowledge" is what SK calls a "thick" time period, wearing loads of evaluative connotations (like: dude, it is fairly true).

Parts of this e-book should be exciting if you have got studied a few physics, and fascinating if you are concerned with interdisciplinary stories, or in case you do not frequently learn a lot approximately metaphors and discourse research. however the ambiguity of its definition of information and the obviousness of a few of its case reports finally made me suspect that the e-book is salted with a pinch of "glamorous jargon," itself.

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Additional resources for Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines

Sample text

And so on. Economics asks: How do markets work? How can we get them to do what we want them to do? Should they be free or regulated? And so on. Economists may look over at the physicists doing their first-order work, borrow some of their concepts or tools, and then use them to look back at their own objects of study in a new way. This is just the phenomenon of borrowed knowledge; note that it occurs here on level 1. Level 2 is where methodology (and epistemology) live. Here, people ask questions about the disciplines one level lower.

14 But he too warns of the possible dangers of borrowed knowledge: “the legal scholar that tries to go only part of the way, borrowing only the bare theoretical concepts and explanatory schemes of another discipline (for example, economics) and routinely applying them to legal phenomena runs the risk of trying to pull rabbits out of an empty hat, and of deluding himself into thinking that he has done so” (1261). Of course, pointing out that an activity runs a risk does not yet count as criticism.

Interdisciplinarity is neither always good nor always bad. It is neither automatically an end in itself, worth pursuing in all cases to the exclusion of disciplinary effort, nor is it always mere dilettantism. It can be useful or useless, as the case may be, and this is true at the level of borrowing as well as at the meta-level of how to go about examining borrowing. “Dilettante” is simply a term of abuse for bad scholarship that deviates from accepted turf boundaries. Bad scholarship is the problem; interdisciplinarity itself carries no special risk.

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Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines by Stephen H. Kellert

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