Monday, July 7, 2008


I happened to stumble across an interesting site the other day called Idiocentrism. What is idiocentrism, you ask? It is a

version of generalism. Because no one can know everything, generalist knowledge is inevitably partial, contextual, particularist, perspectivist, and idiocentric. ("What is Idiocentrism?")

Basically, it is one guy's version of academic methodology, created from the idea that modern academic studies have become flawed in their attempts at specialization. University fields are focused on exclusion and fragmentation, while generalism is focused on integrating a diverse knowledge base into a series of theories and hypotheses.

During my time at the University, I always despised how every paper I wrote was supposed to be about One Thing. Academic papers, as they currently stand, are structured by stating one main introductory hypothesis, and then supporting that idea with a series of proofs. However, my papers never followed this structure, because they were drawn from so many different sources. This always served to confuse my professors. Examples of my subject matter:

  • Vegetarianism as Love
  • Running as a Form of Zen Buddhist Meditation
  • Feminism Within the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism
  • Bisexuality in America: The Search for Identification

I always thought that I was just really bad at organizing my thoughts. But the real problem was that I saw everything as interrelated, and so I couldn't reduce my topics down to one main line of reasoning. This is similar to Alan Watts' theory of polarization, in which he suggests that "opposites" are not truly opposite, they are just different poles of the same thing. For example, "good" and "bad" are not entities of their own, they are simply points along a continuation of "goodness." Therefore, "good" is just "gooder" than "bad," and vice versa.

Another problem I encountered as a result of my generalist philosophy was having my papers universally misunderstood. For example, I was working on a double major in Women's Studies and Religious Studies, and assumptions that were taken for granted in the Women's Studies field were considered false in the Religious Studies department. Therefore, a paper such as "Feminism Within the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism" would be praised as traditional methodology by my Women's Studies professors, and criticized as radical idealism by my Religious Studies professors.

How can there be different truths within what is supposed to be one overarching truth? How can something be Wrong in one academic course and Right in another? This is the problem with University specialization. I think we need to go back to more generalist philosophy and be more accepting of scholars that refuse to limit themselves to irrelevant categories.

1 comment:

boomerific said...

I think that my field, Cultural Studies, is working hard in that direction. It takes into account a number of different disciplines (the sciences, art history, general history, philology, philosophy, etc.) although it is beginning to outline its own principles, which is a move toward specialization.