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Michael Polanyi (1891 - 1976)

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The Tacit Mode : Michael Polanyi's Postmodern Philosophy (Suny Series in Constructive Postmodern Thought)

Personal Knowledge Towards a Post-Critical PhilosophyPersonal Knowledge Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy by Michael Polanyi

Books on epistemology tend to be dreary affairs. Epistemology, which is the branch of philosophy that studies how human beings acquire and "validate" their knowledge, tend to be largely speculative and logical. Most theories of epistemology that are inflicted upon the world are nothing more than highly artificial constructions of some philosopher's speculations as to how men "ought" to attain and validate their knowledge. Any correspondence to how men really attain knowledge is usually pure coincidence. Moreover, in many instances, the epistemological philosopher has some special agenda which he is seeking to impose on his readers by confusing them with a mass of epistemological pedantry. He may be trying to prove the validity of a largely speculative form of "reason" or of definitions or of certainty or of a perfect a immaculate form of "objectivity" or of some other equally utopian and irrelevant principle.

In the light of all this philosophical pretension, it is refreshing to come across a book like Polanyi's "Personal Knowledge." Polanyi was a chemist trained in the methods of science. He understands, as few merely speculative philosophers do, the necessity of deriving theories from facts, rather than facts from theories. Yet Polanyi is more than just a scientist; he is also a very shrewd and critical thinker who does not shrink from challenging long cherished assumptions within his own discipline of science. "Personal Knowledge" is, among other things, an attack on what might be called "naive objectivism," which can be defined as the epistemological view which holds that the only valid knowledge is that which can be articulated and tested by strictly impersonal methods. Polanyi demonstrates why this view of knowledge is untenable. Some of man's most important knowledge, he argues, is tacit and inarticulable, like the knowledge of how to swim or how to judge a work of art. Yet men use such knowledge and even depend on it for their survival.

Polanyi's book is rich in such insights. Anyone interested in epistemology needs to read this book. It will change one's thinking about human knowledge and give one a great appreciation of the depth and wonder of the human mind. -- Greg Nyquist

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Dr R. T. Allen, Editor and Publisher

A journal of constructive and post-critical philosophy and interdisciplinary studies, with a special interest in Michael Polanyi.

Appraisal welcomes articles, working papers, discussion items and book reviews, on all aspects of philosophy and on the application of philosophical ideas to other areas of thought and practice.


Michael Polanyi Society

The Polanyi Society is a scholarly organization whose members are interested in the thought of Michael Polanyi, a scientist and philosopher who lived from 1891 to 1976.

Site includes Society Membership information, a discussion list, a guide to the papers of Michael Polanyi, Tradition & Discovery:  The Polanyi Society Periodical, photographs of Michael Polanyi, calls for papers and more.


The Papers and Michael Polanyi's Career


While the cumulative correspondence, notes, manuscripts, and memorabilia in this collection provide a biographical resource for the varied career of Michael Polanyi, the specific series in the papers, when taken individually, are only partially illuminating. In order to understand the scope of the collection, the individual series must be examined and compared with Polanyi's work in science, economics, philosophy and social problems...


Michael Polanyi:  A Critical Exposition

Harry Prosch


Michael Polanyi was an eminent physical chemist, economist, and philosopher. This book explains how the many diverse topics that concerned him belong together as essential elements in his effort to play physician to "the sickness of the modern mind." Using both published and unpublished writings, Prosch critically evaluates Polanyi's efforts and examines the value of his work as philosophy. The book contains a complete bibliography of Polanyi's humanistic publications and all of his earlier works...


Tacit Knowledge

Karl E. Sveiby


Human knowledge articulated through language is essentially metaphoric in character. "Knowledge about knowledge" is therefore a question of which metaphors one chooses to express one's knowledge in.

Michael Polanyi (1891-1976) was a Hungarian medical scientist whose research was mainly done in physical chemistry before he turned into philosophy at the age of 55. He accepted a personal chair in social studies at the university of Manchester in 1948. His lectures were collected in his opus magnum Personal Knowledge, Towards a Post Critical Epistemology in 1958. Although very influential in the background he was never recognised as a "true" philosopher by his contemporaries...


Postmodern Ethics:  Richard Rorty and Michael Palanyi

John Rothfork

The editors of the Southern Humanities Review honored this essay with the Theodore Christian Hoepfner Award for the  best essay published by the journal in 1995.


In this essay I hope to answer some of the charges made against postmodernism in general and against Richard Rorty's work in particular by critics who often feel caught in the position of being attracted by the philosophical allure of postmodern epistemology but angry at finding themselves on a slippery slope sliding towards what they fear is moral decay and intellectual anarchy. Christopher Norris' prolific work may speak for many who feel this way. In "Consensus 'Reality' and Manufactured Truth" (Southern Humanities Review, 26.1; Winter, 1992), Norris excoriated the least restrained -- or most poetic -- member of the French postmodern contingent, Jean Baudrillard, for being so caught up in his enthusiasm for the simulated "realities" of computer "worlds" that he found it difficult to tell the difference between an arcade game, CNN programming, and the actual military event of the Persian Gulf War. The consequence was a loss of moral judgment. In "'New Times,' Postmodernism, and the Politics of Distraction" (Southern Humanities Review, 26.3; Summer, 1992) Norris argued that postmodernism is a "convenient alibi for thinkers with a large (if unacknowledged) stake in the 'cultural logic of late capitalism'" (269). The suggestion is that moral judgment is subsumed by ideological rhetoric...


Michael Polanyi's Integrative Philosophy

Stefania Ruzsits Jha

Chapter 5 of a thesis presented to the faculty of the graduate school of education, Harvard University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education, 1995


Primarily, Polanyi meant his work to offer a principle of explanation of the process of scientific discovery, focusing on the stages of problem-finding and initial insight, that is on originality. Secondly, he meant to correct the notion that creative scientific activity takes place in a deterministic world. Thirdly, he meant his work to be an effort to rejoin scientific knowing to knowing in general...


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