Quora answer: Historically, what were some great questions that lead to pioneer a new academic discipline?
This is an opportunity to rehearse what I have said previously on many occasions in these answers which is that questions are not primary. Questions come out of problematics, If you do not have a problematic then the questions have no context and really lack any integral meaning. Problematic are what are worked on by what Kuhn calls normal science; they are based on assumptions that are not stated that are the basis of a certain paradigm. So within a paradigm with a set of presuppositions and assumptions your formulate a problematic, and out of that problematic you generate questions. Normally this is done by having a theory about some phenomena, and the questions are about how the phenomena would occur if the theory were true. Science is based on operationalizing those questions into experiments and then performing the experiments to get concrete answers to the questions posed to nature by the experiment. With regard to the theory, it makes distinctions, and those distinctions are refined through dialectics, question and answer about the possible theories and the various sources of evidence.
Strictly speaking it is usually not a question that drives the founding of a new discipline. It is normally some change at either the paradigm, episteme, ontological, existential or absolute level of intelligibility.
So let me give you an example from my own work. I was worried that everything was being called a System and that the term no longer meant anything. So I asked myself what was the next level up from systems theory, where there were things different from systems to which we could compare systems because it is obvious that everything is not a system. Well as far as I can find no one asked this question before because General Schemas Theory, which is what I call the next higher discipline from Systems Science has not been invented in our tradition previously, as a separate discipline. So it seems that the discipline is generated from my question about the nihilism of everything being a “system”. But in fact it really came from something else which was the realization that Systems have inverse duals I call Meta-systems. Meta-systems are schemas but they are not immediately obvious within our culture and our tradition. This is really an ontological change because schemas are projections in the sense of the synthetic a prioiri of Kant. Once I realized that systems had inverse duals, i.e. that they were not from a category theory perspective self-duals, then I started to hunt for other examples of “Schemas” such as Umberto Eco described in Kant and the Platypus. It was the change in understanding the synthetic a priori that resulted in the emergence of this postulated new discipline even more abstract than systems theory. First I had to have the problematic which had to do with what is the foundation of Systems Engineering. The ready answer was Systems Science. But this generated all kinds of questions which eventually led to the viability of Systems Science supporting Systems Engineering. What was discovered was that Systems Science is not enough, but there needs to be something like Schemas Science to support Schemas Engineering instead. Systems Science is just a small slice of what is needed to support that actual work of Systems Engineering. Systems Engineering is wider than the name implies, it encompasses more types of schemas than just the system, for instance meta-systems, patterns, forms, etc. To kick off General Schemas theory I formulated a hypothesis which was that there are exactly ten schema and there is a rule that there is one schema per dimension and one dimension per schema. Once this hypothesis existed then it was possible to test it by generating all sorts of questions about it and to try to poke holes in the hypothesis. Only these schemas exist: facet, monad, pattern, form, system, meta-system, domain, world, kosmos, pluriverse. They stretch from negative first dimension through the zeroth dimension up to the ninth dimension. Once we have this hypothesis we can test it by looking at the various things in the world to see if there are any gaps in this set of schemas, or if there are things that do not fall under these various schemas. Questions abound once we have the hypothesis and as Popper says we try to disprove it. I have not been able to disprove it yet. I have not found any phenomena that do not fall into one of those schemas. I have not found any violations of the rule of two schemas per dimension and two dimensions per schema. But I keep searching from an anomaly that cannot be explained by the hypothesis. I have also tried more complex hypotheses, such as three schemas per dimension and three dimensions per schema. But they add a lot of complexity which does not seem necessary if the simpler rule works. The rule connects the logos of the physus to the nomos. The physus of the logos is logic, so that means that schemas are the dual of logic, i.e. they are the means of intelligibility of the things that are specified in our logical statements.
Spawning disciplines are not usually from asking questions, rather they usually come from shifts in paradigms, epistemes, ontoi, or other levels of intelligibility. Normally once the problematic is opened up as a horizon the discipline comes in to make sense of the normal science that studies the horizon of a given kind of phenomena. Theories are generated within the discipline, and hypotheses tried based on theories. Experiments are run, and normal science goes about its business until the next emergent change occurs at a given level of intelligibility.