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ERIC Number: ED515151
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 238
Abstractor: As Provided
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1096-7328-9
A Gadamerian Investigation of the Two Cultures Phenomenon in an Undergraduate Honors Research Fellowship
Giazzoni, Michael J.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh
The Two Cultures phenomenon, first given its name by C. P. Snow in 1956, consists of a conflict between participants in the academic communities of the natural sciences and the humanities; it also mirrors the methodological debate in the social sciences. This phenomenon also occurs in undergraduates in an interdisciplinary research fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh called the Brackenridge Fellowship. The phenomenon is not an issue of jargon--it is about people with different interpretive structures coming into conflict. The Two Cultures phenomenon should not be regarded as an anomaly of normally peacefully-interacting academic disciplines. There are issues about the tradition, culture, and epistemology of different academic disciplines that are perceived as deeply and fundamentally different, and it is only through Two Culture conflicts that these differences are thrown into sharp relief. The problem of interdisciplinary misunderstanding is illuminated by viewing understanding as "being able to imagine a question that a statement answers," as developed in the epistemological theory of hermeneuticist Hans-Georg Gadamer. This study examines the Two Cultures phenomenon in the Brackenridge Fellowship using the methodology of hermeneutic phenomenology. It finds that students usually consider the natural sciences objective and the humanities subjective. These perceptions are overgeneralized at best and harmfully false at worst. Students in all disciplines demonstrate a lack of awareness of the traditional and communal basis of interpretation in academic fields. However, these perceptions do help to hold academic disciplines together, as students define their academic identities by using other fields as counter-examples. There are practical implications from this study for liberal education. Colleges and universities should consider general education programming beyond the traditional requisite of requiring several courses in different subject areas. Without an examination of how the structure of general education implies value judgments of academic disciplines and how these fields have ideas that are perceived as conflicting with each other, an important teachable moment is missed. Gadamerian hermeneutics helpfully provides guidance as to how a truly educational conversation can be realized with these issues, through examining the way that traditions are enacted in academic disciplines. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Pennsylvania