This is a weekly post by Nidhal Guessoum (see his earlier posts here). Nidhal is an astrophysicist and Professor of Physics at American University of Sharjah and is the author of Islam's Quantum Question: Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science.
I would like to report on the recent creation of a new journal on “transdisciplinarity in science and engineering”, led by Prof. Basarab Nicolescu and Professor Vistrian Maties as the Editors in Chief. For full disclosure, I must note that I am one of the “area editors” of the journal, though this is certainly not the reason I am publicizing this new publication.
First, in case you’re confused between multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity, let me clarify the latter a bit, the term and concept being rather technical and largely unfamiliar to many among the educated public. I’ll leave aside the other terms, both because they are unrelated to our topic here and because they are more familiar to people and are closer to their intuitive understanding.
Transdisciplinarity, reportedly first used by Piaget, was largely brought into the scholarly discourse by Basarab Nicolescu and the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research (CIRET). In a general sense, it refers to areas of research and investigation that fall between specific fields (the prefix “trans” signifying an area between two large bodies, as in “trans-Atlantic”); those are often rich areas that have not been investigated properly as they do not fall under the methodologies of those well-defined bodies of research; they need to be looked at more holistically, and they deserve new approaches and paradigms. Examples of such areas include: areas of relevance to both science and art; areas of complexity between biology and consciousness; topics of science, sociology, and religion; engineering and social sciences; etc.
But Nicolescu has proposed a framework for addressing transdisciplinary questions (see his recent paper here). In his approach, transdisciplinarity rests on three principles forming its foundational methodology: 1) the world consists of multiple levels of reality; 2) adoption of a non-Aristotelian logic of “included middle”; 3) nature is intrinsically complex, and the science of complexity should be adopted and applied extensively.