In this article we argue that discourse structure constrains the set ofpossible constituents in a discourse that can provide the relevantcontext for structuring information in a target sentence, whileinformation structure critically constrains discourse structureambiguity. For the speaker, the discourse structure provides a set of possible contexts for continuation while information structure assignment is independent of discourse structure. For the hearer, the information structure of a sentence together with discourse structure instructs dynamic semantics how rhematic (...) information should be used to update the meaning representation of the discourse (Polanyi and van den Berg, 1996). (shrink)
This text is the seventh of an eight-lecture series given by Michael Polanyi at the University of Chicago in the spring of 1954. The lecture focuses on the nature of human knowledge of other living beings.
After the opening address by Dr. J. W. Cook, chairman of the meeting, who welcomed the participants and outlined the programme of speakers, Professor Michael Polanyi of Manchester University, chairman of the Committee on Science and Freedom, spoke on the background and activities of the Committee and showed how the apartheid issue fitted into the series of 'campaigns' which the Committee has fought on behalf of academic freedom.
On the 27th of October, 1949, the Department of Philosophy at the University of Manchester organized a symposium "Mind and Machine", as Michael Polanyi noted in his Personal Knowledge (1974, p. 261). This event is known, especially among scholars of Alan Turing, but it is scarcely documented. Wolfe Mays (2000) reported about the debate, which he personally had attended, and paraphrased a mimeographed document that is preserved at the Manchester University archive. He forwarded a copy to Andrew Hodges and (...) B. Jack Copeland, who in then published it on their respective websites. The basis of this interpretation here is the copy preserved in the Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago, Special Collections, Polanyi Collection (abbreviated RPC, box 22, folder 19). The same collection holds the mimeographed statement that Polanyi prepared for this symposium: "Can the mind be represented by a machine?" This text has not been studied by Polanyi scholars. (shrink)
Polanyi insisted that scientific knowledge was intensely personal in nature, though held with universal intent. His insights regarding the personal values of beauty and morality in science are first enunciated. These are then explored for their relevance to engineering. It is shown that the practice of engineering is also governed by aesthetics and ethics. For example, Polanyi’s three spheres of morality in science—that of the individual scientist, the scientific community and the wider society—has parallel entities in engineering. The (...) existence of shared values in engineering is also demonstrated, in aesthetics through an example that shows convergence of practitioner opinion to solutions that represent accepted models of aesthetics; and in ethics through the recognition that many professional engineering institutions hold that the safety of the public supersedes the interests of the client. Such professional consensus can be seen as justification for studying engineering aesthetics and ethics as inter-subjective disciplines. (shrink)
After Heitler and London published their pioneering work on the application of quantum mechanics to chemistry in 1927, it became an almost unquestioned dogma that chemistry would soon disappear as a discipline of its own rights. Reductionism felt victorious in the hope of analytically describing the chemical bond and the structure of molecules. The old quantum theory has already produced a widely applied model for the structure of atoms and the explanation of the periodic system. This paper will show two (...) examples of the entry of quantum physics into more classical fields of chemistry: inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry. Due to their professional networking, George Hevesy and Michael Polanyi found their ways to Niels Bohr and Fritz London, respectively, to cooperate in solving together some problems of classical chemistry. Their works on rare earth elements and adsorption theory throws light to the application of quantum physics outside the reductionist areas. They support the heuristic and persuasive value of quantum thinking in the 1920–1930s. Looking at Polanyi’s later oeuvre, his experience with adsorption theory could be a starting point of his non-justificationist philosophy. (shrink)
This paper deals with Ludwik Fleck’s theory of thought styles and Michael Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge. Though both concepts have been very influential for science studies in general, and both have been subject to numerous interpretations, their accounts have, somewhat surprisingly, hardly been comparatively analyzed. Both Fleck and Polanyi relied on the physiology and psychology of the senses in order to show that scientific knowledge follows less the path of logical principles than the path of accepting or (...) rejecting specific conventions, where these may be psychologically or sociologically grounded. It is my aim to show that similarities and differences between Fleck and Polanyi are to be seen in the specific historical and political context in which they worked. Both authors, I shall argue, emphasized the relevance of perception in close connection to their respective understanding of science, freedom, and democracy. (shrink)
Half a century after Michael Polanyi conceptualised ‘the tacit component’ in personal knowing, management studies has reinvented ‘tacit knowledge’—albeit in ways that squander the advantages of Polanyi’s insights and ignore his faith in ‘spiritual reality’. While tacit knowing challenged the absurdities of sheer objectivity, expressed in a ‘perfect language’, it fused rational knowing, based on personal experience, with mystical speculation about an un-experienced ‘external reality’. Faith alone saved Polanyi’s model from solipsism. But Ernst von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivism (...) provides scope to rethink personal tacit knowing with regard to ‘other people’ and the intersubjectively viable construction of ‘experiential reality’. By separating tacit knowing from Polanyi’s metaphysical realism and drawing on Benedict Anderson’s concept of ‘imagined communities’, it is possible to conceptualise ‘imagined institutions’ as the tacit dimension of power that shapes human interaction. Whereas Douglass North claimed institutions could be reduced to rules, imagined institutions are known in ways we cannot tell. (shrink)
In this paper I focus on the central role faith plays in the thought of Polanyi and Voegelin. I begin by indicating how both find the modern conception of scientific knowing seriously wanting. What Polanyi terms "objectivism" and Voegelin calls "scientism" is the modern tendency to reduce knowledge to only that which can be scientifically demonstrated. This errant view of knowledge does not occur in a vacuum, though, and both men draw a connection between this and the political (...) pathologies of the twentieth century. I then show the complementary ways in which these two thinkers believe recovery is possible: an epistemological solution encompassed in Polanyi's personal knowledge and an ontological reorientation that is the core of Voegelin's insistence that we must recover an awareness of human participation in transcendent reality. (shrink)
Imagine putting together a jigsaw puzzle that works like the board game in the movie “Jumanji”: When you finish, whatever the puzzle portrays becomes real. The children playing “Jumanji” learn to prepare for the reality that emerges from the next throw of the dice. But how would this work for the puzzle of scientific research? How do you prepare for unlocking the secrets of the atom, or assembling from the bottom-up nanotechnologies with unforeseen properties – especially when completion of such (...) puzzles lies decades after the first scattered pieces are tentatively assembled? In the inaugural issue of this journal, Michael Polanyi argued that because the progress of science is unpredictable, society must only move forward with solving the puzzle until the picture completes itself. Decades earlier, Frederick Soddy argued that once the potential for danger reveals itself, one must reorient the whole of one’s work to avoid it. While both scientists stake out extreme positions, Soddy’s approach – together with the action taken by the like-minded Leo Szilard – provides a foundation for the anticipatory governance of emerging technologies. This paper narrates the intertwining stories of Polanyi, Soddy and Szilard, revealing how anticipation influenced governance in the case of atomic weapons and how Polanyi’s claim in “The Republic of Science” of an unpredictable and hence ungovernable science is faulty on multiple levels. (shrink)
Scholars in the field of social studies of science marked the year 2012 as the 50th anniversary of the publication of Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn’s book is routinely cited as the beginning of a new intellectual movement that jettisoned logical and empiricist accounts of scientific progress in favor of sociological and psychological explanations of scientific practice. In contrast, this essay argues that the roots of the social construction of science lie earlier, in the 1930s, in (...) the political milieu, scientific careers, and intellectual debates of a generation in which Michael Polanyi was a central figure. Crucial elements in the development of Polanyi’s philosophy of science are examined, with comparisons to J. D Bernal, Karl Mannheim and others of their generation, as well as to the younger Thomas Kuhn and to Karl Popper. (shrink)
In this essay, I argue that Polanyi developed a realism which ranges over the sciences and the humanities as well as over values. I argue that his comprehensive realism had best be understood as relative to veracious inquirers participating in communal traditions of inquiry and that this leads to a theological realism according to which the divine realities are interpreted contextually, i.e., in terms of a particular religious form of life, rather than in terms of the grand metaphysics of (...) classical theism. (shrink)
Cybernetics,” which he presented as en suite with six articles by several others on the same subject in the same journal during the preceding 18 months. This group of short papers, starting with one by Karl Popper, may be regarded as part of the first wave of response to Alan Turing’s famous paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” in 1950. Polanyi read Turing’s paper in draft and discussed it directly with Turing. The polemic as to whether machines can think and (...) the mind’s likeness and unlikeness to a machine, has of course never ceased since then and, as Artificial Intelligence develops, is not likely to do so for many long decades. In addition to the traditional battle lines in philosophy over the mind and the brain there are other important lines of thought that disfavor logic as the final arbiter of the great philosophical questions—for example, feminist ontology and cultural theory. Polanyi started from within logic, but his line of thought was not built out of the old philosophical topics nor did he address the matter along either the materialist or the phenomenological developments of the twentieth century. He was concerned with the cybernetic view of the human mind and also with the way the followers of Wittgenstein regarded language and philosophy. (shrink)
William Booth's 'On the Idea of the Moral Economy' (1994) is a scathing critique of the economic historians labelled as 'moral economists', chief among them Karl Polanyi, whose The Great Transformation is the groundwork for much of the later theorizing on the subject. The most devastating of Booth's criticisms is the allegation that Polanyi's normative prescriptions have anti-democratic, Aristotelian and aristocratic undertones for being guided by a preconceived notion of 'the good'. This article presents an attempt to rescue (...)Polanyi from this charge by reinterpreting his view of the relationship between the economic and the political, while elucidating the practical meaning of a moral economy. (shrink)
This paper interprets Karl Polanyi through dialectical critical realism. The paper maintains that this interpretation offers Polanyi methodological coherence and philosophical support. It further provides dialectical critical realism with an exemplar of explanatory critique. It is argued that the social theory of Polanyi aims at the demystification of market-systems as they are theoretically constructed by both orthodox and heterodox accounts of capitalism. Dialectical critical realism is best capable of situating the theoretical accomplishment of Polanyi’s historical and (...) dialectical critiques of social being. (shrink)