Knowledge Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy by
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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A journal of constructive and post-critical philosophy
and interdisciplinary studies, with a special interest in Michael
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.
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.
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 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...
© 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
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
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