Breadth, Depth and Integration: The Three Dimensions of the Polymathy Construct
At the core of the polymathy construct is the person's relationship with knowledge in three dimensions: depth, breadth and integration.
Depth refers to expertise and to the cumulative penetration into certain subjects of interest (in which society circumscribes within domains). It entails knowledge components (epistemic, technical and practical) that one “samples” from society, and the knowledge and expertise that one “composes” from their unique experiences and turns into self-made knowledge (Gabora, 2016). When depth is absent, dilettancy should be used instead of polymathy.
Breadth refers to the latitude (also extension or comprehensiveness) of knowledge and to its diversity. Latitude entails covering several domains (as currently organized by society) whereas diversity entails knowledge in unrelated domains. More (sub-)domains and less typical combinations increase one's breadth score. Thus, developing typical arrays of expertise, well-circumscribed within a single domain, underscores specialism, not polymathy.
Integration refers to the capacity of developing connectedness and synergies among sufficiently profound and diverse ideas, activities, worldviews, styles, and modes of thinking or operation. Integration happens at the (i) ideational, (ii) personal, and (iii) societal levels: (i) involves trans-contextualism, and the synergistic command of different modes of thinking (e.g., analytic and intuitive); (ii) involves developing synergistic networks of enterprise (Gruber, 1988), or integrated activity sets (Dewey, 1934); (iii) involves creativity through integrative themes and informed, reflective and consequential actions (Bildung; Michael Araki), or the examination, enlargement, and posterior enrichment of the world (Camus, 1942).
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