In this work the distinguished physical chemist and philosopher, Michael Polanyi, demonstrates that the scientist's personal participation in his knowledge, in both its discovery and its validation, is an indispensable part of science itself. Even in the exact sciences, "knowing" is an art, of which the skill of the knower, guided by his personal commitment and his passionate sense of increasing contact with reality, is a logically necessary part. In the biological and social sciences this becomes even more evident. The (...) tendency to make knowledge impersonal in our culture has split fact from value, science from humanity. Polanyi wishes to substitute for the objective, impersonal ideal of scientific detachment an alternative ideal which gives attention to the personal involvement of the knower in all acts of understanding. His book should help to restore science to its rightful place in an integrated culture, as part of the whole person's continuing endeavor to make sense of the totality of his experience. In honor of this work and his The Study of Man Polanyi was presented with the Lecomte de Noüy Award for 1959. (shrink)
“What to Believe” is a brief, hitherto unpublished talk that Michael Polanyi gave at a spring 1947 conference of the Student Christian Movement in Manchester, UK. Polanyi criticizes the way in which modern skepticism undercuts Christianity and what he calls “civic morality” and also promotes a misleading account of modern science. Polanyi outlines and compares the ways in which believing and belonging underlie understanding in science, Christianity and “civic morality.”.
I propose to bring fresh evidence here for my theory of knowledge and expand it in new directions. We shall arrive most swiftly at the centre of the theory, by going back to the point from which I started about twenty years ago. Upon examining the grounds on which science is pursued, I saw that its progress is determined at every stage by indefinable powers of thought. No rules can account for the way a good idea is found for starting (...) an inquiry; and there are no firm rules either for the verification or the refutation of the proposed solution of a problem. Rules widely current may be plausible enough, but scientific enquiry often proceeds and triumphs by contradicting them. Moreover, the explicit content of a theory fails to account for the guidance it affords to future discoveries. To hold a natural law to be true, is to believe that its presence may reveal itself in yet unknown and perhaps yet unthinkable consequences; it is to believe that such laws are features of a reality which as such will continue to bear consequences inexhaustibly. (shrink)
I propose to enquire here into the way we endow our speech with meaning and into the way by which we make sense of speech that we hear spoken. I shall show that, notwithstanding their informal character, these acts possess a characteristic pattern, a pattern that I shall call the structure of tacit knowing ; I shall show that to form such a structure is to create meaning . Both the way we endow our own utterances with meaning and our (...) attribution of meaning to the utterances of others are acts of tacit knowing. They represent sense-giving and sense-reading with in the structure of tacit knowing. My enquiry shall outline the total structure of language, comprising both its formal patterns successfully established by modern linguistics and its informal semantic structure, studied so far mainly by philosophy. (shrink)
This brief and provocative 1948 essay by Michael Polanyi was produced for discussion by a group of religious intellectuals convened by J. H. Oldham. Polanyi outlines the sources and contours of modern social and political ideas in terms of the interaction of four types of “substitute deities” that have emerged in modern society and displaced what Polanyi identifies as the “God manifested in the Bible.”.
“Visual Presentation of Social Matters” is a 1936 Polanyi lecture, delivered to the Association for Education in Citizenship, which lies in the background of Polanyi’s 1940 film Unemployment and Money. Polanyi argues that the complex modern market system is misunderstood by ordinary citizens who subscribe to economic fallacies; this misunderstanding has contributed to violence and turmoil in the twentieth century. Polanyi proposes a program to discover a dynamic visual symbolism that he believes can clearly represent modern economic life, releasing ordinary (...) people from economic fallacies and exasperation and creating “economic consciousness.” This economic enlightenment is part of Polanyi’s effort to rehabilitate liberalism. He envisions an economic order in which there is freedom and “complete co-ordination” which he suggests already exists in the domain of scientific research. (shrink)
I hope that it will become clear in the course of this paper what I mean by calling some elements of science unaccountable. Let me now say only that I shall speak of the contributions made to scientific thought by acts of personal judgment which cannot be replaced by the operation of explicit reasoning. I shall try to show that such tacit operations play a decisive part not only in the discovery, but in the very holding of scientific knowledge. I (...) shall outline the structure of these acts and indicate to what extent this structure offers a justification for relying on such acts. (shrink)
“On Popular Education in Economics,” an unpublished lecture that Michael Polanyi delivered in late February of 1937 to the Manchester Political Society, succinctly presents Polanyi’s understanding of recent political and economic history, including the rise of communist and fascist governments. Polanyi argues that new economic ideas need to be better understood by the intelligent layman and that economics education on a wide scale can address the social and political problems of the modern world.