The Discipline of Abandonment: Emersonian Properties of Transdisciplinarity & the Nature of Method
This essay investigates a possible relation between primarily European, twenty-first century, science-based Transdisciplinarity and nineteenth century, humanities-based American Transcendentalism through a study of a key term in the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Abandonment. The word commonly carries negative connotations: deserting someone or forsaking something, behaving with frightful recklessness, leaving home and hope behind. In many of Emerson’s essays, however, transcendental abandonment is also a way of going home, the intellectual affirmation of something bigger (to which we always belong) through the negation of something smaller (that which we mistake for our “natural” mode of thinking and being). Comparing Emersonian Transcendentalism with contemporary Transdisciplinarity is not just an academic exercise, not just for amusement nor for the satisfaction of a curiosity, but belongs to a search for responsible approaches to ecological, social, intellectual, and spiritual urgencies. The points of connection extend Transdisciplinarity beyond the sciences and lead to reconsidering the extent to which elements of historical Transcendentalism might inform present thinking beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries to address real problems.
McMillin. T.S. 2013. "The Discipline of Abandonment: Emersonian Properties of Transdisciplinarity & the Nature of Method." Nineteenth-Century Prose 40(2): 105-28.