RESEARCH TALK “THE KUHNIAN PERSPECTIVE ON INTERDISCIPLINARITY AND INCOMMENSURABILITY” BY PROF. VINCENZO POLITI

Sociological and organizational studies on interdisciplinarity tend to focus on the analysis of the institutional and physical obstacles to the realization of interdisciplinary projects. The building of new capacities for fostering interdisciplinary collaborations and the formation of special committees for evaluating the results of interdisciplinary projects are often proposed as a way to overcome such obstacles. Even after the removal of these barriers, however, interdisciplinary research is difficult and, in recent years, philosophers of science and cognitive scientists have begun to analyse why it is so.

In the talk “The Kuhnian perspective on interdisciplinarity and incommensurability: a case study from personalised medicine”, prof. Vincenzo Politi follows the approach of Boon and Van Baalen (2019), who develop a ‘Kuhnian framework’ to explain the epistemology of interdisciplinarity and he extends it to clarify what the difficulties of interdisciplinary research consist of. His claim is that scientists involved in interdisciplinary projects experience incommensurability. Such a form of incommensurability cannot be reduced to simple linguistic and communicative problems but involves the ranking of epistemic values, the choice of methodologies, and even how problems and phenomena are perceived. To overcome incommensurability, scientists in interdisciplinary research must undergo a process similar to the one which drives the so-called ‘scientific revolutions’. This means that interdisciplinarity should not be simplistically framed in terms of ‘interactions’, or of ‘integrations’ of different skills and pieces of knowledge. Rather, interdisciplinarity represents an instance of scientific change.

While the first part of the talk is based on some of his previous works, in the second part he will discuss the preliminary results of a qualitative research conducted on an interdisciplinary team currently working on personalised cancer targeted therapies at the University of Oslo (Norway). The results of this study will allow him to discuss another problematic (and so far ignored) feature of interdisciplinarity: not only scientists in interdisciplinary projects have to deal with incommensurability, but their disciplinary identities may also influence their awareness of the very existence of incommensurability. He will conclude by making some suggestions on how to overcome the difficulties of interdisciplinarity in practice.

Vincenzo Politi is a philosopher who is interested in both traditional issues in the general philosophy of science and in the ethics of science and technology. He received his PhD in Philosophy of Science in 2015 from the University of Bristol (UK), where he pursued his research with the support of the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh scholarship. Currently, Vincenzo Politi works as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oslo.

Time: March 10, 7.30 p.m. (Tyumen, GMT+5).

Place: SAS, 8 Marta St, 2k1, room 501.

The research talk will be given in English.

Those interested in participating in the event via Zoom can send a request to rc.sas@utmn.ru. A link will be provided.