The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy

3.0 Methodology: Trans-Disciplinary Induction

3.0 Methodology: Trans-Disciplinary Induction

3.1 Trans-

3.2 Disciplinary

3.3 Induction

3.4/Weaknesses & Strengths

* Index & Epithet not in published dissertation



Archetypes resemble the beds of rivers: dried up because the water has deserted them, though it may return at any time. An archetype is something like an old watercourse along which the water of life flowed for a time, digging a deep channel for itself. The longer it flowed the deeper the channel, and the more likely it is that sooner or later the water will return.

Carl Jung (1875–1961)

 “The Primordial Images,” Psychological Reflections, ed. Jolande Jacobi (1973).

3.0 Methodology: Trans-Disciplinary Induction

1.         Methodology is the organized means by which knowledge about something is acquired.  That ‘something’ may be the subatomic foundation of a chemical reaction, intellectual property rights among Fourth World peoples, altered states of consciousness, the history of the automobile, echoes of the Big Bang, or the meaning of truth, love, beauty, destiny or justice.

2.         The organized means to know about something varies according to the object under investigation as do disciplinary rules of evidence and instruments for its collection.  When that ‘something’ is knowledge itself, however, one faces a meta-methodological dilemma.  Understanding a system or thing requires a perspective higher than or conceptually above the object under investigation (Loasby 1971, 863).  How can one attain a position that transcends knowledge?  How can one know all its domains and forms or all the faculties for its acquisition?  Such questions border on metaphysics, itself, of course, a discipline of thought.  

3.         Given the inadequacies of the Standard Model and the thinness of public policy debate concerning the knowledge-based economy, a methodology is required to reach out beyond the disciplinary frontiers of economics to collect, compile and collate ‘knowledge about knowledge’.  My solution was ‘Trans-Disciplinary Induction’ or TDI, which was used to harvest knowledge about knowledge from the event horizons of five disciplines of thought and interdisciplinary fields of study including economics, philosophy, psychology and two ‘interdisciplinary’ fields of study - science and technology - and seventeen of their sub-disciplines plus etymology, i.e., the origin and meaning of words (Exhibit 1).

4.         I will now define TDI and outline its weaknesses and strengths.  I will then, in the following four chapters, report my findings as increasingly detailed definition of knowledge as noun, verb, form and content.  In the remaining chapters I will examine the nature of the Nation-State and consider the competitiveness of nations in a global knowledge-based economy.


Exhibit 1

Trans-Disciplinary Event Horizon






























3.1 Trans –

1.         I begin with the prefix ‘trans’ which derives from the Latin meaning “across, to or on the farther side of, beyond, over”.  In biochemistry and biology, it has the additional meaning of ‘transfer’, e.g., of genes across species, i.e., trans-genetic (OED, trans-, prefix, 10. Biochem. and Biol.).  In addition, as an adjective, trans- conveys the sense of ‘beyond, surpassing, transcending’, as in trans-human.  I use the word in the sense of transferring ‘knowledge about knowledge’ across disciplines in the hope of attaining a transcendent understanding or overview of knowledge.

2.         Trans-, however, must be contrasted with ‘inter-’ as in Jean Piaget’s 1973 Main Trends in Inter-Disciplinary Research‘Inter-’ too is a prefix deriving from the Latin but meaning “between, among, amid, in between, in the midst” (OED, inter-, prefix, etymology).  In this sense, inter-disciplinary means standing between disciplines and sharing, not transcending, their observations and findings.  Piaget also restricts inter-disciplinary studies to the natural & engineering sciences with but a concluding extension to the ‘human sciences’.  He thereby excludes the Arts and the humanities.  Furthermore, his analysis is rooted in the ‘positivist’ tradition of Logical Empiricism in which empiricism is defined in linguistic terms as the common rules of grammar, vocabulary and syntax used by different disciplines to ‘prove’ their findings.  This excludes, of course, non-linguistic, non-codifiable forms of knowledge such as the aesthetic experience, which disappears under analysis.  It also ignores what David Baird calls ‘thing knowledge’ (Baird 2004) or what I will call ‘tooled knowledge’, i.e., knowing through the existential phenomenological extension of our physical selves using sensors, tools and toys. 


3.2 Disciplinary

1.         The word ‘discipline’ derives from the Old French meaning “instruction of disciples”.  Discipline is concerned with the practice or exercise of a disciple in contrast to ‘doctrine’ which is “the property of the doctor or teacher” who is concerned with abstract theory or dogma (OED, discipline, etymology).  Put another way, discipline concerns what is practiced and doctrine concerns what is taught and thought, i.e., a body or system of principles or tenets.  How it is taught is pedagogy, i.e., “the art or science of teaching” (OED, pedagogy, 1).

2.         For my immediate purposes, discipline will be defined as “a department of learning or knowledge; a science or art in its educational aspect” (OED, discipline, n, 2).  Such departments tend to be institutional, not just abstract.  Since Plato’s Academy they have also been reified as organizational and physical structures. 


3.         Now, as then, entry and exit is controlled, initiates supervised and doctrine regulated.  Once admitted, initiates rise up the hierarchy first teaching what once they were taught and then administering the organization and/or adding to the body or interpretation of doctrine.  This corresponds to: “the system or method by which order is maintained in a church, and control exercised over the conduct of its members; the procedure whereby this is carried out; the exercise of the power of censure, admonition, excommunication, or other penal measures” (OED, discipline, n, 6a).  Put another way, the organization of disciplinary knowledge is, by definition, institutional, with barriers to entry erected to screen admission and then supervise training, qualification and practice.

4.         Disciplinary practice in the Church took the form of doctrinaire monastic orders – Benedictine, Cistercian, Gregorian, Franciscans, Jesuit, etc. (Cantor 1969).  This changed with the arrival of the self-governing university, independent of Church and State, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of the Common Era (C.E.).  At its beginnings, the university was an incorporated association of teachers, as in Paris, or of students, as in Bologna (Schumpeter 1954, 77-78).  Oxford University, the first English university, founded in 1167 C.E., was modeled on the University of Paris.  The university broke the monopoly of knowledge held by the Church and its monasteries.  The universities quickly assembled libraries of their own including works not approved by the Church.  Secular monarchs granted the universities charters defining their rights, freedoms and obligations to the Crown (similar to other guilds) and then cultivated and supported them not just for the sake of knowledge but as a source of talent to balance the influence of the Church.

5.         The medieval university was typically organized into three primary domains of philosophy (literally ‘the love of knowledge’): natural, moral and metaphysical.  To these, the practices (applied knowledge) or self-regulating professions of law and medicine were added as distinct, quasi-independent branches of learning.  Excepting the practices, the university taught the ‘Liberal Arts’, i.e., knowledge suitable for the edification of gentlemen and nobles.  This included music, the only Art originally admitted to the university.

6.         University departments were paralleled in the ‘real world’ by guilds each of which practiced a distinct ‘mystery’ (Houghton 1941) of the Mechanical Arts.  To work with the mind and the word was noble; to work with the hands, however, was considered ignoble and demeaning.  Arguably, this bifurcation of ‘knowledge-for-knowledge’s-sake’ and ‘knowledge-for-practice’ is evidenced in contemporary distinctions between science and technology and between management and labour.


7.         With respect to modern disciplines, natural philosophy broke out into the natural & engineering sciences while moral philosophy split into the humanities & social sciences.  Nonetheless, the organizational structure and rituals of the medieval university continue to this day.  Anachronisms include: the Bachelor & Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees; the robes; and, the positions such as chancellor, dean, provost, etc.  The word ‘anachronism’ highlights a salient characteristic of knowledge, i.e., it exists in overlapping “temporal gestalten” (Emery & Trist 1972, 24) or ‘epistemes’ (Foucault 1973).  In effect, the Present is woven out of uneven temporal strands, e.g., of religion, politics, language, etc., each stretching ontologically back into the Past.  In this sense Time’s Arrow runs both backwards and forwards in the noösphere.  Such a view contradicts the concept of ‘modernity’ as the homogenous co-temporality of all sectors of society. 

8.         Picture a graduating PhD on stage receiving a diploma in 21st century genomics wearing robes designed in the 12th or 13th centuries and a mortar board, square or trencher cap from 17th century Oxford and Cambridge (Australian University Women, Academic Dress Hire Service, 2004).  The knowledge in the ritual and that embodied in the diploma are from different historical periods overlapping as the graduate’s present - a re-linking with the past, a re-ligio.  Unlike the natural & engineering science where new knowledge displaces the old, in other domains the old often continues to be relevant, e.g., while ancient Greek physics is not taught in the modern university, ancient Greek philosophy continues as part of the curriculum; Bach, Shakespeare and Sophocles continue to ‘speak’ to audiences. 

9.         As pointed out by Foucault (1973) different periods of history are characterized by different dominant strains or patterns of thought or epistemes, including the history of science.  Idhe (1991) compares Foucault’s epistemes to Kuhn’s ‘paradigms’ that define ‘normal science’ in non-revolutionary times (Kuhn 1996).  Epistemes are artifacts of another age that continue to function in the contemporary world.  Thus the Scholastic Period of western thought was rooted in analogy, i.e., if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it must be a duck!  While reduced in stature by the experimental method, knowing by analogy continues to operate in the natural & engineering sciences and throughout the rest of society.  Like old philosophies, epistemes tend to persist.  A shift from one paradigm to another in the natural & engineering is accompanied by a loss of some previous knowledge known as a Kuhnian loss (Fuller 2000).  In other knowledge domains, however, while a change in epistemes results in the loss of some previous understanding, it tends to be smaller and less definitive.  In fact, old epistemes continue, underground, contributing to the “overlapping temporal gestalten” identified by Emery & Trist as characterizing the Present (Emery & Trist 1972, 24).


10.        What differentiates modern disciplines from medieval ones, however, is emphasis on additions to rather than interpretation of existing knowledge.  This change became embodied in the ‘research university’ which appeared first at the University of Berlin in 1809 and then spread to the United States and beyond.  Emphasis on ‘new’ knowledge led to a progressive fissioning of the natural and engineering sciences into an ever increasing array of sub-disciplines and specialties (Kuhn 1996).  Each has its own differentiated theory, language, practices, instruments, research agenda and talent.  Each tends to bifurcate into theoretical and practical branches, e.g., economic theory vs. economic policy.  Furthermore, the taxonomic structure of many disciplines in the humanities and social sciences is culturally determined, e.g., the French university syllabus in sociology is different from the British and that from the American.

11.        This process of the splitting off (the Latin meaning of ‘science’) is an example of the division and specialization of knowledge in action.  It has the benefit of ever more detailed examination of a phenomenon but at the cost of increasing incommensurability, i.e., the inability to communicate knowledge to the uninitiated.  It also has the associated costs of resistance to heterodox approaches and external audit, e.g., inter-disciplinary studies.  In a manner of speaking, what is gained in depth and detail is lost in breadth of vision. 


3.3 Induction

1.         In logic, induction refers to reasoning from the specific to the general in contrast to deduction which refers to reasoning from the general to the specific.  The word ‘induction’ derives from the French meaning “the action of introducing to, or initiating in, the knowledge of something” (OED, induction, 2).  It is in this sense that trans-disciplinary induction involves introducing, in my case, economics, to arguments and evidence from other disciplines of thought. 

2.         If induction carries the sense of increase, then deduction carries the sense of decrease.  In fact, the word ‘deduction’ derives from the French meaning “the action of deducting” (OED, deduction, 1a).  Put another way, deduction involves simplification of the complex; induction involves the complication of the simple, in this case, the word ‘knowledge’.  Deduction serves as the basis of reductionism in the natural and engineering sciences as well as in the social sciences practicing ‘calculatory rationalism’. 

3.         Trans-disciplinary induction can be expressed in three complimentary ways.  First, as in semiotics and analytic psychology, knowledge about a given phenomenon - in this case about knowledge – can be seen symbolically.  In effect, trans-disciplinary induction involves a


circumambulation around the question looking at it from as many different perspectives as possible and interpreting specific disciplinary findings as symbolic of a wider, more numinous meaning (Neumann 1954, 7).

4.         Second, as in astronomy, a discipline can be likened to a black hole of complexity into which relevant evidence and argument flow over an event horizon.  Once inside that horizon knowledge and information about what goes on therein become, as will be seen in greater detail below, relatively inaccessible to outsiders due to paradigmatic incommensurability (Kuhn 1996).  Using this metaphor, trans-disciplinary induction tries to capture, cream off, harvest or otherwise pick off ‘knowledge about knowledge’ from the event horizon before it is sucked into the black hole where it becomes enmeshed in often heated and complex internalist debate specific to a discipline and relatively meaningless to outsiders, e.g., the economics of Keynes vs. Keynesian Economics.  

5.         Once upon a time, one could become a ‘Renaissance Man’ or a polymath.  The quantity of human knowledge was relatively small.  Since that time, however, there has been a knowledge explosion comparable to the Cambrian explosion of life, so-called because of the relatively short geological period over which the vast diversity of multi-cell and multi-organ life forms appeared on earth.  Recent innovations in knowledge and information technology may now once again make it possible to at least survey the full spectrum of human knowledge, but from outside the disciplinary black hole.  To a degree, this skimming of the event horizons of multiple disciplines is possible because of new web-based research libraries and tools such as JSTOR at the University of Chicago.  These systems permit, for example, key word searches of most major academic journals in many disciplines.  In the case of JSTOR coverage is from the late 1800s to five years before the moving present time.  This historical depth facilitates ‘intellectual archaeology’. 

6.         Third, as in molecular biology or genomics, TDI can be compared with Kauffman’s patchwork procedure:

The basic idea of the patch procedure is simple: take a hard, conflict-laden task in which many parts interact, and divide it into a quilt of nonoverlapping patches.  Try to optimize within each patch.  As this occurs, the couplings between parts in two patches across patch boundaries will mean that finding a “good” solution in one patch will change the problem to be solved by the part in the adjacent patches.  Since changes in each patch will alter the problems confronted by the neighboring patches, and the adaptive moves by those patches in turn will alter the problem faced by yet other patches, the system is just like our model coevolving ecosystems...  We are about to see that if the entire conflict-laden task is broken into the properly chosen patches, the coevolving system lies at a phase transition between order and


chaos and rapidly finds very good solutions.  Patches, in short, may be a fundamental process we have evolved in our social systems, and perhaps elsewhere, to solve very hard problems. (Kauffman 1995, 252-253)

7.         Each of the sub-disciplines surveyed can be likened to a patch.  A solution suggested in one may aid resolution of questions not only in another discipline, i.e., inter-disciplinary, but also systemically, i.e., trans-disciplinary or ideologically.  Kauffman’s patchwork method is reminiscent of multiple equilibria analysis in the theory of economic development.  An equilibrium is a point of stability towards which an economy will return after short-run shocks to the system.  There are, however, many possible equilibria only one of which is optimal leading to long-term growth.  The others are sub-optimal solutions leading, in the long-run, to stagnation or worse.  In economics, there is no mechanism to ensure that the optimal equilibrium is attained.  In molecular biology, however, systemic optimality is assured through the patchwork induction of local solutions.  I can but hope that TDI provides some optimality concerning ‘knowledge about knowledge’.

8.         TDI, in effect, redefines ‘ideology’ as the search for commensurable sets or systems of ideas (in this case about knowledge) shared across different knowledge domains, practices, disciplines, sub-disciplines and specialities of thought.  Given the increasing incommensurability of knowledge within and between knowledge domains finding such shared or common conceptual structures should facilitate communication and permit us “to glimpse a constructivist companion to the reductionist thesis” (Kauffman 2000, 268).


3.4 Weaknesses & Strengths

1.         Like any methodology, TDI has strengths and weaknesses.  Its strengths include the breadth of vision it contributes to meta-methodological problems like truth, justice and poverty.  It also can reveal commonalities or isomorphisms between disciplines of thought revealing, perhaps, the essence of the phenomenon under investigation, i.e., “that which constitutes the being of a thing” (OED, essence, n, 7).  To the degree that such phenomena are ideas, then to that degree TDI arguably constitutes ideology, i.e. a science of ideas (OED, ideology, 1a),

2.         Its weaknesses, however, are many.  First, it relies on language, which can articulate some but not all forms of knowledge.  This includes so-called ‘tacit’ knowledge that, by definition, is not, or cannot, be codified (M. Polanyi 1962a).  All linguistic-based methodologies have similar difficulties in treating non-linguistic forms of knowledge such as the aesthetic experience, “technological intelligence” (Aldrich 1969, 381), ‘instrumental realism’ (Idhe 1991) and ‘instrumental epistemology’ (Baird 2004).


3.         This limitation of language finds two specific expressions in this dissertation.  The first is the language of the dissertation itself – English.  Knowledge, in English, is, in fact, an etymological monad.  Thus one verb, ‘to know’, veils four distinct meanings: to know by the senses, by the mind, by doing and by experience.  In German, by contrast, there are four separate and distinct verbs to express each of these meanings. 

4.         The second problem involves disciplines and sub-disciplines that use words with specific ‘disciplinary’ or ‘technical’ meaning.  Such meanings sometimes differ between disciplines.  More often, however, disciplinary usage differs from ‘common sense’ usage.  Given seventeen sub-disciplines are engaged, extensive, and to some readers disconcerting, use is made of common sense definitions generally drawn from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED 2005).  Consider the term ‘utility’.  In common use it means “the fact, character, or quality of being useful or serviceable” (OED utility, n, 1a).  In economics, however, utility, means the number of ‘utiles’ – a unit measure of pleasure/pain - carried by a good or service.  Utility is extracted by the consumer to gain satisfaction or happiness expressed in the felicitous calculus of Jeremy Bentham.  Accordingly, except where otherwise noted, words are used in their common sense or dictionary meaning throughout the text.

5.         Second, TDI is akin to sophistry: one builds the strongest case from supporting evidence and argument, ignoring, deflecting but seldom directly confronting or refuting contrary evidence.  TDI is therefore inherently subjective and dependent on the experience, skill and ethics of its practionner.

6.         Third, TDI, like medieval scholasticism, relies on authority.  While evidence is gathered from experts, their contributions are generally subject to dispute and debate internal to their own respective disciplines.  Such controversies are generally ignored when using TDI.  Furthermore, one gathers such evidence using one’s own external or outsider’s reading, i.e., seeing with one’s own optic (Loasby 1967, 172-173).

7.         Fourth, each TDI researcher is inevitably strong in some fields while weak in others.  True polymaths are probably extinct.  Experimenter expectation or bias can therefore be expected.  But as Kuhn suggests, even the choice of normal science puzzles is biased by a scientist’s culture, experience and language (Kuhn 1996, 128).  To this degree, even the natural & engineering sciences are value-laden.

8.         For all its weaknesses, TDI is, to paraphrase Kenneth Boulding: “better than nothing” (Boulding 1966, 3).  Furthermore, TDI admits that “there is an incompatibility between precision


and complexity.  As the complexity of a system increases, our ability to make precise and yet non-trivial assertions about its behavior diminishes” (Zadeh 1987, 23). 

9.0        In summary, given the epistemological and moral inadequacies of the Standard Model in economics and the thinness of public policy debate concerning the knowledge-based economy, a methodology was required to reach out beyond the disciplinary frontiers of economics to collect, compile and collate ‘knowledge about knowledge’.  This methodology is called trans-disciplinary induction or TDI.  I will now present my TDI findings in the following four chapters using Kauffman’s metaphor of an avalanche in the guise of four increasingly detailed definitions of knowledge as noun, verb, form and content.  Having defined knowledge I will then examine the nature of the Nation-State and determine the competitiveness of nations in a global knowledge-based economy.



4.0 Knowledge as a Noun

The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy