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Interdisciplinary Studies

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Why Interdisciplinary Studies?

A student's view!

We all have our different specialties and interests that leave us primed to see the world in a unique way. By being curious, open-minded, and scientific in our approaches, we can leave our mark on our industries and on the people around us. However, there are few questions worth pursuing that don't draw on the expertise from multiple different fields of study. By limiting ourselves only to our intellectual comfort zones, we'll end up missing out on holistic solutions that encompass all aspects of a situation, and instead present answers that lack nuance or real-world applications.

How does Peirce help us?

Peirce might have written quite a lot about philosophy during his life, but he wasn't happy with the state of it. Philosophers were quite content to ask important questions, but were not so interested in giving them practical answers that could apply to our lives. They weren't interested in conducting experiments to prove that their abstract theories and models could be brought to reality, which Peirce disagreed with. For Peirce, the divide that we so often picture between the humanities and science is not a divide at all, but a failure to understand how to apply scientific methods universally.

The same logic we use to solve complex math problems or design functional machines is the same logic we use to analyze texts from long dead writers or complete works of art. The process of formulating a hypothesis, designing an experiment to test said hypothesis, and then drawing a conclusion from that to apply to our real-life problems is universal. By understanding this, we are best primed to take a fully comprehensive view of the different situations we find ourselves in our jobs and in our lives.

A true interdisciplinarian is someone who draws from knowledge from all different fields of study in order to answer questions scientifically and holistically. By studying logic and reason, it becomes much easier to see the links between different fields of study, and then to apply these connections in our own areas of expertise. It also becomes easier to work in tandem with like-minded people from seemingly disconnected jobs and life experiences.

Semeiotic as the Method of Relational Logic

What is Semeiotic, and why should I care about it?

Semeiotic (pronounced semi-aw-tic) is a form of logic developed by Charles Peirce in order to make sense of the world around us by showing how facts are related. Every single object, thought, idea, or concept that exists can be categorized and connected to other entities using this theory. This means that using semeiotic in scientific research can be used as a method to connect seemingly disparate fields of study and form connections between them. From biology to creative writing to childcare, we can begin to see the links between the different aspects of our world and how exactly a concept from one field could be utilized in another.

While this method of thinking may seem overwhelming at first with its impressive looking name and other equally impressive claims attached to it, Semeiotic is based on a very simple concept. The foundation of Semeiotic are signs, the study of their elements, the meanings they represent and the relations they develop.

Some elements of Semeiotic

Signs

One of the simplest ways to introduce a sign is the three-part model, called the triadic sign, which consists of an object, a representation, and an interpretant. The object of the sign is what the sign stands for. The representation is what it conveys, and the interpretant is the idea produced by it. As an example of a sign, let's take a cup of coffee. The object is the coffee. The representation of it will vary depending on the situation, but let's say that the underlying intent of the coffee is to drink it to get more energy. The interpretant is our interpretation of what will result from the coffee based on its assigned representation. One possible interpretant in this case is that because the cup of coffee in question is being consumed by a student after 10:00 PM, we could then assume that they have a test the next day and want to stay awake to cram. This idea could then form a new sign with the test as a new potential object.

This process allows for a logical progression of ideas that build off of each other in an easily traceable way. Simply put, the Interpretants grow and with it the whole body of signs grow.

Logic

Logic refers to the reasoning processes we use to search for the truth. Its primary goal is to classify arguments, ideas, or decisions made as either good or bad, and then to further determine how strong and valid they really are. We practice logic on a daily basis by deciding how to act or think based on a certain proposition of ours being proven true in the past. This can be as simple as deciding to wear sunscreen on a sunny day because of the memory of past sunburns caused by the lack of protection, or as complex as choosing who to vote for based on the candidates perceived viability.

Contrary to popular belief, proper logic isn't the antithesis of emotion, nor do the two have to be in direct opposition. Emotions only get in the way of logic when they stand in the way of logical debate. Our feelings act as powerful indicators of our deepest held beliefs and desires, and to ignore emotion is to cut yourself off from this depth. By allowing our emotions to work in tandem with our reasoning processes, the true purpose of logic is revealed.

To begin to study logic is to accept that you will be wrong at some point and to be willing to change your mind. After all, why would you study logic unless you think that your own reasoning is flawed in some capacity? To study logic is to let go of your own biases and acknowledge the viewpoints of others, no matter how foreign they may seem.

Reasoning

Reasoning, simply put, is thought under self-control or the process of thinking. Someone who reasons their way to a rational conclusion must think it to not only be true in that situation, but in every other analogous case. Otherwise it isn't proper reasoning, but just an idea we can't resist. Inferences do in fact come to us in the moment, but by using “general patterns of right reasoning” we can decide whether they are reasonable or not. These patterns can be thought of as rules, even if they are vague in nature, because they are general formulas to be applied to specific situations. If the rule is satisfied by our inference, we will feel pleasure and the inference will become “far more unshakable.”

General reasoning consists of governing individual events. Because it is impossible that every single possible event could ever occur, reason can't ever be fully embodied. It's similar to our own human potential in that we are limited by time to a set amount of experiences from which we can learn from. With this being the case, Peirce comes to the conclusion that the ideal of what is admirable should be linked to the development of Reason. Proper ideals of conduct would be to do our part to make the world a more reasonable place however we see fit, and logic should focus on developing reasonableness.

The real-world implications of this idea of developing reasonableness are interesting to think about. What Peirce has done has provided us with a potential answer to the question of what we should be doing with our studies. If developing reason gives us a purpose, then we have an ultimate task to strive for—to enrich humanity by contributing what we can to our pool of knowledge.

Truth

In order for reasoning to have a purpose there must be some truth out there to discover, something that can provide a firm foundation for human thought. Without objective truth no questions we ask could have a definitive answer, meaning that asking them would be practically pointless.

Peirce defines experience as the combination of belief and cognition which life forces on us. People who believe that there is no objective truth claim that their thought processes, based on experience, are built on freedom of thought, but Peirce claims that this element of force is integral to our experience. Based on the environment we grew up, our own biological imperatives and other outside factors, we are influenced by things beyond us whether we want to admit it or not. Truth cannot be ignored: something exists outside of us that influences everything that we do and to ignore this is to delude yourself.

Such is also scientific Truth; Peirce Studies gives us the method to connect our study fields to a coherent, meaningful, and practicable knowledge field.

Institute for Studies in Pragmaticism