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A Gadamerian Investigation of the Two Cultures Phenomenon in an Undergraduate Honors Research Fellowship

Giazzoni, Michael (2009) A Gadamerian Investigation of the Two Cultures Phenomenon in an Undergraduate Honors Research Fellowship. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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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.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Giazzoni, Michaelgiazzoni@pitt.eduGIAZZONI
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGunzenhauser, Michaelmgunzen@pitt.eduMGUNZEN
Committee MemberNess,
Committee MemberStewart, G. Alecstewart@pitt.eduSTEWART
Committee MemberGarman, Noreenngarman@pitt.eduNGARMAN
Date: 11 December 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 23 November 2009
Approval Date: 11 December 2009
Submission Date: 4 December 2009
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: C. P. Snow; Gadamer; general education; hermeneutic phenomenology; liberal education; Two Cultures
Other ID:, etd-12042009-143052
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:08
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:53


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