Dr Machiel Keestra

The future and end of interdisciplinarity.
What is implied when we aim for more robust interdisciplinary insights?

Dr Machiel Keestra 430x430

Almost a century after its coinage, interdisciplinarity has occupied a firm place in the domains of academic research and education. Mitigating the implications of the increasing fragmentation and specialization of scientific disciplines and responding to the complex and dynamic questions our societies are facing, it is becoming ever more common for academics to be trained to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams. At the same time, however, scientists, in the wide sense of the word, whether inside or outside of academia, are experiencing other pressures towards change. Scientific insights are being challenged in various ways, ranging from a more general science skepticism to questions raised by the so-called replication crisis and an insistence on relevance and robustness of those insights.

In this lecture I will consider whether we need to adjust interdisciplinary education and research in response to these challenges. Although it seems that interdisciplinarity is already an oecumenic endeavor, aiming towards comprehensive solutions to complex problems, it is in many cases still not sufficient. I will also offer some reflections on what more needs to be done for interdisciplinarity to remain relevant and the implications of this for our educational and research practices.

Machiel Keestra is assistant professor (UD) at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He studied philosophy and psychology in Amsterdam and Heidelberg (Germany) and his PhD thesis Sculpting the Space of Actions. Explaining Human Action by Integrating Intentions and Mechanisms covered the overlap between philosophy of science, cognitive neuroscience, hermeneutics and ethics and presented a novel framework for the interdisciplinary explanation and understanding of human action.

Dr Keestra teaches in the Beta-Gamma (Natural & Social Sciences) Bachelor program, Interdisciplinary Honours program, Brain and Cognitive Sciences Master program, and other interdisciplinary courses. His research interests are ancient and modern tragedy, history of philosophy, philosophy of action and the philosophy of cognitive neuroscience. At UoA he is member of the research group Neuroaesthetics & Neurocultures and co-organizer of its series of 'Worlding the Brain' conferences, and a member of the research group Logic and Language at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation.

Since 2010 Dr Keestra has been the elected board member of the US based Association for Interdisciplinary Studies and their President from 2014-16. In addition he has been on the strategic board of the 2017 and 2019 International Transdisciplinarity Conferences and is co-chair of the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies conference in Amsterdam, October 24-26th 2019 (http://aisconference2019.nl/).