When I was a boy, one of the silly things I learned in the schoolyard was how to pat my head while rubbing my stomach. The point of this exercise was to do two totally unrelated things at the same time. When you pat your head, your hand goes up and down. When you rub your stomach, your hand goes around and around [the sort of motion you make when you are saying "yummy."] It takes a little concentration to do both together.
It might seem that I am engaged in an adult intellectual version of this childish game when I propose to write mini-tutorials on works of economics, sociology, and social psychology, after having done full scale tutorials on Kant, Hume, Freud, Afro-American Studies, Game Theory, and Ideological Critique -- intended to impress with my versatility perhaps, but really having no inner unity or coherent rationale.
Not so. My deeper purpose is pedagogical in the best sense. I am trying, by example, to teach that the bureaucratic separation of these various subjects in the Academy is actually counterproductive and artificial. The great thinkers whose works I have been discussing themselves drew no such lines, and moved seamlessly across disciplinary boundaries wherever the logic of their investigations took them. It is thoroughly unnatural for an economist to know no philosophy, for a sociologist to know no psychology, for a literary critic to be daunted by Game Theory.
My academic career was, by today's standards, rather atypical. After earning a doctorate in philosophy, I taught European history for three years, then a survey of the social sciences for two, later mathematics, political science, and economics, and eventually, for sixteen years, Afro-American Studies. I have always viewed this ceaseless movement from discipline to discipline as natural and productive. I would like to think that through the tutorials I post on this blog, I am encouraging younger scholars to be equally ecumenical in their intellectual endeavors.
Tomorrow, I shall start my first mini-tutorial with a series of remarks about the work of Herbert Marcuse, with special reference to the book I have recently several times mentioned, One-Dimensional Man.