Interdisciplinarity and complexity – An evolving relationship
In recent decades, the ideas of interdisciplinarity and complexity have become increasingly entwined. This convergence invites an exploration of the links and their implications. The implications span the nature of knowledge, the structure of the university, the character of problem solving, the dialogue between science and humanities, and the theoretical relationship of the two underlying ideas.
Both interdisciplinarity and complexity are modern ideas. However, the underlying concepts of interdisciplinarity – breadth and general knowledge, integration, and synthesis – are ancient. Organized programs date to the opening decades of the twentieth century, in social science research and the core curriculum and general education movements. Precedents for the idea of complexity are traced to the early twentieth century, in disciplines such as biology and philosophy. The new science of complexity, though, developed in the latter half of the century. In recent decades, the two ideas have become increasingly entwined.