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The idea of a human science: interdisciplinarity and the limits of conceptuality


A curious feature of today’s academic scene is the discrepancy between the frequency with which scholars invoke the idea of interdisciplinarity and the elusiveness of its meaning.

Here I identify two versions of interdisciplinarity.

In the first and most widespread, a shared object of inquiry is postulated and a variety of approaches employed in the study of it (as in ‘X studies’); the result is often theoretical incoherence resolved prematurely through naïve realism.

In the second, the results of discipline-specific inquiries are integrated into a philosophical anthropology. I explore a version of the second, but onlyafter suggesting that the dominant philosophical anthropologies of the 20th century have been limited by a residual commitment to conceptuality.

As an alternative, I argue that the only viable basis for an interdisciplinary human science must be non-conceptual. Hans Blumenberg’s metaphorology suggests a way forward.