Ineffable, Tacit, Explicable and Explicit

Tradition and Discovery 38 (1):18-37 (2011)
Harry Collins’ Tacit and Explicit Knowledge is engaged to clarify and expand the notions of tacit and explicit. A broader continuum for tacit knowledge and its indirectly or only partially explicable components is provided by complementing Collins’ exposition of tacit knowledge with a discussion of formal systems and Polanyi’s exposition of tacit knowing. Support is provided for Collins’ distinction between strings and language, mechanical modeling as a form of explication, and the notion that machines lack tacit knowledge and language. While Collins emphasizes the inexplicability of cultural fluency as tacit knowledge, Polanyi emphasizes the functional dimension of skillful performances. The conceptual strengths and weaknesses of Collins’ and Polanyi’s approaches are examined. Collins’ emphasis on string transformation and his division of tacit knowing into Relational (RTK), Somatic (STK), and Collective (CTK) are helpful tools, but should not flatten Polanyi’s multiple levels of knowing and being into a dualism that may encourage reductionism
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