Systems transdisciplinarity as a metadiscipline – Integration and Implementation Insights – Vladimir Mokiy

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Systems transdisciplinarity as a metadiscipline – Integration and Implementation Insights

Systems transdisciplinarity as a metadiscipline

October 27, 2020

By Vladimir Mokiy

Vladimir Mokiy (biography)

In 1990, specialists from the Russian School of Transdisciplinarity began to develop the type of systems transdisciplinarity proposed by Erich Jantsch in 1972. He argued for the coordination of all disciplines and interdisciplines in the education and innovation system on the basis of a generalized axiomatic and an emerging epistemological pattern.

Since this approach has a philosophical rationale, conceptual and methodological basis, and appropriate technological methods, it can be considered as an independent metadiscipline – systems transdisciplinarity.

Transdisciplinarity as a meta-discipline has the following basic attributes:

  • a meta-theory; and,
  • a meta-narrative.

The purpose of the meta-theory of transdisciplinarity is to create a picture of the one and only world. Disciplinary (local) pictures of the world, in this case, are considered as abstract models of certain areas (fragments) of the one and only world. As a result, the meta-theory of transdisciplinarity appears to be a scheme that defines the way and context of building scientific models of the researched areas (fragments) of reality. Such a scheme, because of its abstract nature, provides a transdisciplinary interpretation of the results of modeling the fragments of reality within the framework of different disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches.

Meta-narrative is a universal system of notions, signs, symbols, and models, which aims to create a single type of description of objects and the presentation of interrelated events in the picture of the one and only world. This meta-narrative summarizes the knowledge and languages of scientific disciplines, as well as cultural and semantic discourses (areas of interaction).

General provisions of a systems transdisciplinary approach

The systems transdisciplinary approach is based on the philosophic principles of unicentrism. In a broad sense, unicentrism is a position in philosophy and in science that is based on the problem of the correlation between the unity and its fragments.

This position is based on the isomorphism (similarity) of the general order of the structure of fragments of space, the attributes of information, and the periods of time that are able to describe the one and only world. Any objects at all levels of the reality of the one and only world are its natural elements and fragments.

Therefore, the main condition for the existence of the one and only world is the existence of a general order in it (transdisciplinary system). As the name implies, it follows that this order must manifest itself everywhere: in every element and fragment of this world and in every interaction of these elements and fragments at every level of reality.

As a result, the same order should ensure the achievement of activity goals and results of all these elements and fragments. In addition, it should synchronize these goals and results. For this reason, the one and only world is a One Orderly Medium.

Therefore, the order determining unity is not revealed in the course of systems transdisciplinary research of a complex object. It is not formed subjectively as happens in other types of systems approaches. Instead, it is postulated through systems transdisciplinary models of the spatial, informational, and temporal units of order:

  • The model of a spatial unit of order provides substantiation for the physical and/or logical object boundaries and the nature of relations between elements within these boundaries.
  • The model of an informational unit of order provides substantiation for the necessary and sufficient amount of information on the object.
  • The model of a temporal unit of order shows the organization of converting the internal potency of an object from the original volume to the results that will be used in the subsequent processes of its conversion.

The world in the form of vertical functional assembly and the system in the form of the general order, which make the conditions for the unity of this assembly, are close to the vision of Ludwig von Bertalanffy with respect to the general systems theory. In 1968 he wrote:

A unitary conception of the world may be based, not upon the possibly futile and certainly farfetched hope finally to reduce all levels of reality to the level of physics, but rather on the isomorphy of laws in different fields. Speaking in “material” language, it means that the world, i.e., the total of observable events, shows structural uniformities, manifesting themselves by isomorphic traces of order in the different levels or realms. (pp. 48-49)

Recognising transdisciplinarity as a metadiscipline

Endowing transdisciplinarity with the traditional attributes of scientific discipline – philosophical substantiation, concept, methodology, technological solutions – makes it possible to organically integrate it into the existing classification of scientific directions and scientific approaches.

In turn, the creation of textbooks, manuals, and training programs, as well as the organization of special training and retraining of teachers will allow us to organically integrate this transdisciplinary meta-discipline into the educational process of universities. This will then make it possible to change the attitude towards the transdisciplinarity of academic researchers and practitioners as a marginal experience not integrated into the structure of universities.

What do you think of the proposal that systemic transdisciplinarity is a metadiscipline? How would you like to see it integrated into the educational processes of universities? What problems can arise with such a targeted reform of higher education?

To find out more:
Mokiy, V. S. (2019). International standard of transdisciplinary education and transdisciplinary competence. Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline22: 73-90. (Online – open access) (DOI):

94 questions and answers on Transdisciplinarity:

Bertalanffy, L. V. (1968). General system theory: Foundations, development, applications. George Braziller: New York, United States of America

Jantsch, E. (1972). Towards interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in education and innovation. In Interdisciplinarity: Problems of teaching and research in universities. OECD Publication 99, 105-106, Paris, France. (Online):

Biography: Vladimir Mokiy PhD is Head of the Russian School of Transdisciplinarity and Director of the Institute of Transdisciplinary Technologies, Nalchik, Russia. His research focuses on creating the philosophy and methodology of a systems transdisciplinary approach as an independent scientific discipline.

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2 thoughts on “Systems transdisciplinarity as a metadiscipline”

  1. Teodor GHITESCUI consider that the transdisciplinary approach is synonymous with the systemic approach with the two currents: cybernetic and realistic, which are distinguished by understanding and applying the concepts of “information-interaction” and by descriptive and mathematical modeling of systems.
    The treatment of “transdisciplinarity” as a meta-science, I do not think is possible not only from the perspective of the biological limits of the human intellect but also from the perspective of the professionalization of the new generations towards narrow specializations due to the division of labor.I believe that the “transdisciplinary” approach to knowledge presupposes the acceptance by most intellectuals, similarly, of the semantics of a minimum number of concepts, models and principles common to all sciences, based on the isomorphism of systems even if each science has as object of study a certain system.It should be promoted in higher education, especially in managerial, economic and legal fields, the areas most susceptible to intellectual manipulation by ignoring the common results of the basic sciences (mother tongue, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology).
    In fact, transdisciplinarity (the systemic approach) should be the basis for preparing all specialists for the teaching profession!After decades of studies and experience in management and execution positions in three different fields: military, economic and educational, I found that the lack of consensual understanding of basic concepts of knowledge, such as energy, process, system, information, natural self-adaptability, human self-adaptability, etc., is the main cause of the absurdities existing in higher education and implicitly in the current types of government of nations.For example, the consensual misunderstanding of the concept of “energy” (transdisciplinary concept, because it is the universal cause of all transformations in nature and society), leads to the absurdity of positioning the education system in sector III-services, ie where nothing new happens it just moves money from one pocket to another. Also due to this conceptual dissonance in the current pedagogy and in the law of education, THE PRODUCT OF SCIENTIFIC EDUCATION AND RESEARCH IS NOT CLARIFIED, from the perspective of the common results of the fundamental sciences.If not even the most performing intellectuals can reach consensus on even 5 concepts (system, energy, information, self-adaptability) and approx. 9 universal principles, based on the isomorphism of systems, the NEED FOR A SYSTEMIC (transdisciplinary) APPROACH TO SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE IS OBVIOUS!The practical problems that could arise could be:
    1. What to start with? I believe that the training of teachers should be rethought through a new pedagogy, systemic pedagogy, through which to promote this type of approach. A model:;
    2. Which governments will accept such an approach, which will simplify knowledge so much that dogmatic intellectual manipulation will no longer be possible?Reply
  2. Gerald MidgleyI find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with your proposal.First the agreement. It worries me that the meaning of ‘transdisciplinarity’ is being watered down in some research communities. The idea that transdisciplinary research involves the development of theoretical and/or methodological ideas that go beyond the boundaries of the conventional disciplines is really important. However, for a lot of people, transdisciplinarity now means problem-focused research in partnership with decision makers and stakeholders. This is transcendent in the sense that it goes beyond just academic researchers, and the problem focus means the work could end up going beyond one discipline, but it seems to me that this is little more than “big interdisciplinarity”. What makes transdisciplinarity different from interdisciplinarity is that there are theoretical and/or methodological ideas being researched, and these are transferable/adaptable so they can be transported into other domains. In this respect, transdisciplinarity has the characteristics of a discipline, in that a specialist language evolves. You call it a “meta-discipline”. I would not use the term “meta” myself, but that is a relatively small difference between us. In many other respects I agree with you on the need for a transdisciplinarity that does not throw the baby (transferable theory and methodology) out with the bathwater in the rush to build a stakeholder-focused research practice.Now the disagreement. It seems that your “one and only world” focus reduces transdisciplinary inquiry to something that is very traditional in terms of the sciences: the pursuit of truths (with all the epistemological caveats that need to accompany that word). Yes, this is consistent with the original work of Bertalanffy and Jantsch. However, I spent the first decade of my research career arguing against this, saying that we need multiple ideals of inquiry: truth, yes, but also ‘rightness’ and ‘subjective understanding’. The problem is, a transdisciplinarity that only focuses on questions of truth marginalizes more than half of what is needed in systems inquiry. What about all the methodologies developed by systems thinkers to support people in deciding on normative action? It is a problem that non-systemic science marginalizes the normative and subjective, and I argue that we should not reproduce this problem in the field of systems science.My way forward on this is to argue that pursuing the ideal of the unity of science is dependent on methodological pluralism, and this requires a new systems philosophy that allows for multiple types of inquiry with truth, rightness and subjective understanding (and understanding their interactions) as goals. I could end up writing a whole essay on this, but that would be pointless, as I have written many such essays before. Let me instead just recommend a single one of my papers. I have written the reference and copied the abstract below.Midgley G (2001). Rethinking the Unity of Science. ‘International Journal of General Systems’, 30, 379-409.This paper reconstructs the traditional systems notion of the unity of science to take
    account of criticisms that have been made of it over the years. It then examines a number
    of disciplinary sciences, comparing them with systems science. It is shown that disciplinary
    scientists embrace different philosophical and methodological positions, depending
    on their chosen subject areas. This presents a major problem for systems science. Systems
    science brings all the subject areas from the disciplines together, and with them come
    their associated philosophical and methodological ideas. These rub together abrasively,
    and the result is that the integrity of systems science itself is brought into question. The
    solution proposed in this paper is the promotion of methodological pluralism. This
    involves the development of a philosophical theory that explains the methodological
    diversity that is needed if we are to conduct transdisciplinary research. The paper ends
    with the presentation of a pluralist theory that begins the job of freeing systems science
    from methodological and philosophical restrictions.Reply

Systems transdisciplinarity as a metadiscipline October 27, 2020 By Vladimir Mokiy

Systems transdisciplinarity as a metadiscipline – Integration and Implementation Insights