Many Cultures of Academic Inquiry
On careful scrutiny, C. P. Snow's "two cultures" goes beyond the opposition between the "sciences" and the "humanities", revealing itself as mutually incompatible multiple epistemologies or paradigms of academic inquiry. Differences appear in the modes of:
discovery, involving ways of arriving at plausible conjectures/claims, which includes but is not restricted to "methodology" as received practices of gathering data;
justification, involving the "evidence", "argumentation", or "proof" to establish the claim as knowledge; and
critical thinking, involving the value systems and principles for evaluating knowledge claims and their justification.
For instance, norms of justification in mathematical proofs, experimental proofs, philosophical arguments, legal arguments, and literary arguments diverge, despite the shared unity that distinguishes them from theological justification and commonsense justification. "Admissible grounds" also diverge: observations in scientific inquiry, intuitions in philosophical inquiry, semi-subjective responses in aesthetic inquiry, and axioms and definitions in mathematical inquiry. Scientific and legal arguments admit defeasible reasoning; mathematical arguments do not.
Such epistemological differences lead to problems of "cross-cultural" dialogue. In my talk, I will describe a project of comparative academic epistemology that seeks to unearth the unity beneath the diversity of academic epistemologies, and help students acquire the capacity to engage in diverse forms of academic inquiry.