Monday, October 29, 2007


When modern professions are so specialized, do they gain or lose an appreciation for other disciplines? Justify.


Rachel said...

I think the narrowness of many (if not all) professions these days decreases appreciation for other disciplins. Nearly every adult I talk to, with the exception of my math teacher and my friend's parents who are engineers has forgotten all they've ever learned in math since seventh grade. What's more, they don't care. The way my mom puts it, she's gotten this far in her post-college life without using more than an elementary level of math, and is doing just fine. Although proffessionals seem to appreciate the value of extraneous disciplins, it is in a very removed sense i.e. it's important, but not immediately relevent. I see this as a negative phenomenon, since it drastically decreases the area of knowledge in which you can persue truth, and limits your field of view for interdisciplinary truths/knowledge. Specializing severely decreases the breadth of your knowledge, although the depth would increase exponentially, I suppose. Sort of like Andrew Wiles - by specializing you can persue the higher level truths of your area, although the more you specialize, the greater your neglect of the rest of the areas of knowledge.

Just a side note, what exactly is the difference between truth and knowledge? I have the feeling that we've talked about this, and I should know, but I can't quite distinguish between them.

penguin said...

I remember reading a quote on my father's bulletin board when I was younger. It went like this:

"A philosopher will continue to learn less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything. A scientist will continue to learn more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing."

In my opinion we are only human and we can only know so much. I think that in a certain profession it is entirely up to the individual about how much he or she decides to specialize on certain aspects of their individual profession or if he or she decides to study a broader area. On the question of appreciation, I think anyone that becomes very specialized in one field will appreciate anyone that has decided to specialize in any other field due to respect. I am mostly going off of personal experience here due to the fact I am more specialized in chemistry but entirely respect people I know who have become more specialized in biology.

katrina337 said...

I think there is definitely a bias towards one specialization by the person pursuing it, but I think it can also make people appreciate more other areas of specialization because the person them self cannot do it or lacks any interest in it. I mean, I'm definitely hardcore (hxc, omg!) liberal arts/humanities type subject person (um...yeah, I hope that made sense), but I can still appreciate people who are better in science and math because I can't really comprehend those subjects, but it makes me respect the people who can more (I have crappy grammar today).

shilpa said...

I agree with Katrina. I think that if you are in a specialized field, you start to notice the differences that exist between your field and another field. I can justify my opinion mainly through authority. My authoritative figure is my sister who is currently a neurologist. From the conversations that I have had with her, I have realized that her interest and strength in the sciences had allowed her to notice the weaknesses that she had in the field of history in college. Yet, at the same time, I can see how someone might look at this topic from a different perspective and point out that the abundance of differences between specialized fields will cause a person in one field to ignore the details of other fields simply because they don't have the knowledge or language to understand the concepts in other fields. However, it is still possible for a person in one field to gain appreciation for another field through acquirement of knowledge regarding another field. For instance, the fact that my sister was trying to gain knowledge regarding historical events allowed her to appreciate the jobs of historians as she herself appreciated the difficulties in memorization that they may face. In the end, it is all up to the individual.

shilpa said...

Brooke's computer isn't working so she's using my account to respond.

I really don't think this has to be the case at all. For example, I am HLing in music. Granted this isn't necessarily a specialized field, but it will work for this example...Just because I'm HLing in music doesn't mean I at all lose appreciation for other studdies totally unrelated to that. If anything, I gain appreciation for people looking deeper at something at a level that I have never studdied it. I guess if the field in which someone is specializing is a touchy subject (maybe theology) then it could close someone's mind to ideas that contradict the opinions that someone has formed within the study of that field. Still, that isn't something I could say applies to even a majority, and that just depends on the person, and really doesn't have much to do with the field they study. Specialize in a field or not, there's always going to be bias or "uncertainties" so I don't think this has a direct correlation.

Rebecca said...

Though specialization causes people to lose some basic knowledge about other areas of study, I think it is an extremely important practice. If everyone was to just gain a general education about nothing in particular, then no one would have enough experince in a single field to actually make any actual progress in it and the world would become stagnant. Specialization allows development to occur in each area of study so that society can advance. This makes you realize that you shouldn't feel bad about putting off the other disciplines to focus on your specific career becuase if we didn't do that then our future wouldn't be any different from now what it is now.

SamE said...

Brave New World (the book) makes interesting comments on this, including one section (if I remember right), where one character didn't know how to survive on her own because all she had been taught was how to do one specific function in an assembly line-type system.

Personally, I think that people will tend to keep up their studies in subjects they are interested in, if they have time. This might seem obvious, but my perception of people who say that everything they needed to know they learned in kindergarten just don't like anything that they learned after kindergarten. Either that or they're lazy.