Disciplinary Cultures and Tribal Warfare: The Sciences and the Humanities Today

Barbara Herrnstein Smith

in Scandalous Knowledge

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780748620234
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671670 | DOI:
Disciplinary Cultures and Tribal Warfare: The Sciences and the Humanities Today

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This chapter offers a balanced, symmetrical account of the sciences and humanities as complementary disciplinary clusters representing different but equally valuable sets of epistemic stances and intellectual practices. It goes on to explain how, under pressure from changing intellectual and institutional conditions and culturally pervasive loaded dualisms (e.g., real work and mere play, real things and mere words), the symmetry breaks down and becomes invidious comparison, mutual misunderstanding and mutual antagonism. Noting that the asymmetrical Two-Culture ideology reflected in the recent “science wars” continues to dominate public views of the academy, the chapter concludes by urging mutually respectful interdisciplinary interaction but arguing against either the possibility or the desirability of a unification of all knowledge or, as currently proposed, a “conceptual integration” of all disciplines.

Keywords: disciplines; academy; natural sciences; humanities; Two Cultures; science wars; interdisciplinarity; conceptual integration

Chapter.  9323 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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