Wednesday, April 30, 2003

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On academic specialization

Boy, is that an eye-catching headline.

For those of you still reading, Kieran Healy critically reviews the myriad complaints across the Scholar-Blogosphere that academic specialization has stunted conversations within and across disciplines about Really Important Questions (NOTE TO GRADUATE STUDENTS: replace "conversations" with "discourse" and you'll understand what I'm saying). Kieran unearths a great Max Weber quote from "Science as a Vocation" that anyone contemplating writing a dissertation needs to remember:

And whoever lacks the capacity to put on blinders, so to speak, and to come up to the idea that the fate of his soul depends upon whether or not he makes the correct conjecture at this passage of this manuscript may as well stay away from science. He will never have what one may call the ‘personal experience’ of science. Without this strange intoxication, ridiculed by every outsider; without this passion … you have no calling for science and you should do something else. For nothing is worthy of man as man unless he can pursue it with passionate devotion.

I would add only one point here. It also helps tremendously if you can explain to yourself -- and hopefully others -- why others should care about what you care about so deeply.

Chris Bertram posts a modest rejoinder to Healy that's worth checking out as well.

P.S. Click here for those who are interested in the feudal structures of my own discipline of international relations.

posted by Dan on 04.30.03 at 03:22 PM