What Krugman is missing is that the loss and regaining of the information is done through the lens of economics. Hirschman and his disciples rejected this approach and joined another tribe — political science, for the most part. After they went “native” in the wrong tribe, their writings became undecipherable to the economists, and it took decades of reprocessing information into language that fit economics perspective for their insights to be understandable.
Hi David,
Henry Kim

Your anecdote about Krugman perfectly illustrates how disciplines shape how we see and think about the world. Once this information was expressed through a different way of thinking, it was essentially lost and “unsee-able” to traditional economists—and any discourse across the two disciplines was nearly impossible.

Essentially, theory building on a grand scale, with the caveat that axioms are defined a bit restrictively and everything will have to be built up from those axioms one step at a time. Not such a bad thing, but it does take a long time and different disciplines, with different founding fathers, will have different foundational axioms. As t → infinity, everything will eventually converge (hopefully), but infinity is a long time.

To fully understand Dewey, you have to understand he doesn’t believe that disciplines will eventually converge because he doesn’t believe we are in the process of uncovering any “truths”. We aren’t striving to uncover something about the world itself. Disciplines are simply tools that humans have developed over generations because they serve a purpose in the moment. As our needs/goals change and circumstances change, disciplines are updated to fit those needs and circumstances or new disciplines are created. Howard Johnson can probably explain this much better than I can. I’m relatively new to this way of thinking.

What your take on Dewey reminds me of is that if people hop across disciplines, but with a broader/deeper perspective, the process can be sped up. The founding axioms need not be taken as “gospel truths,” but simply founding axioms.

In Dewey’s vision of a democratic society, there are no “gospel truths” at all, and while a discipline may be founded on a set of axioms, those axioms are only kept in place as long as they are useful in the moment. And there are no founder or gatekeepers; any educated person versed in the discipline can fork the discipline as necessary. Disciplines are neither static nor heading to some kind of ideal state.

Hopping across multiple disciplines can, be difficult, in a sense, akin to learning multiple languages, and, perhaps difficult to do well.

Dewey explicitly states that the purpose of education isn’t to guide a learner to higher levels of thinking and power within a single discipline, but to enable all learners to move to higher levels of thinking and power within many disciplines. Dewey would flat out say that a person who is educated in a single discipline isn’t really educated at all. I’ve got a number of quotations on this topic highlighted in his books. Working on another short article soon.

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