The need for a transdisciplinary understanding of development in a hot and crowded world

Robert Costanza*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Practical problem solving in complex, human dominated ecosystems requires the integration of three elements: (1) active and ongoing envisioning of both how the world works and how we would like the world to be; (2) systematic analysis appropriate to and consistent with the vision; and (3) implementation appropriate to the vision. Scientists generally focus on only the second of these steps, but integrating all three is essential to both good science and effective management. ‘Subjective’ values enter in the ‘vision’ element, both in terms of the formation of broad social goals and in the creation of a ‘pre-analytic vision’ which necessarily precedes any form of analysis. Because of this need for vision, completely ‘objective’ analysis is impossible. In the words of Joseph Schumpeter (1954, p. 41):In practice we all start our own research from the work of our predecessors, that is, we hardly ever start from scratch. But suppose we did start from scratch, what are the steps we should have to take? Obviously, in order to be able to posit to ourselves any problems at all, we should first have to visualize a distinct set of coherent phenomena as a worthwhile object of our analytic effort. In other words, analytic effort is of necessity preceded by a preanalytic cognitive act that supplies the raw material for the analytic effort. In this book, this preanalytic cognitive act will be called Vision. It is interesting to note that vision of this kind not only must precede historically the emergence of analytic effort in any field, but also may reenter the history of every established science each time somebody teaches us to see things in a light of which the source is not to be found in the facts, methods, and results of the preexisting state of the science.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterdisciplinarity and Climate Change
Subtitle of host publicationTransforming Knowledge and Practice for Our Global Future
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780203855317
ISBN (Print)0415573874, 9780415573870
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


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