Knowing And Being Essays By Michael Polanyi Pdf

358 Books person’s behavior and circumstances provide reasons for one to realize his own condition. C. H. Whiteley discusses the view that mental concepts, such as thinking, perceiving, feeling pain, are essentially behavioural. H. H. Price discusses the phenomena of intelligible sounds emitted by others that may provide information about the world as it exists through other minds. The question of perceptual experience in the validation of the immediate world demands a philosophical basis. This topic forms the basis for the concluding section of essays in the book. A. J. Ayer states that when a person perceives something he never directly perceives a physical object, but sense data pertaining to it. Ayers further feels that every statement about a physical object is logically reducible to a statement or set of statements about actual or possible sense data. R. J. Hirst discusses the representatii7e theory of perception and confronts questions that are elicited by it, particularly the causal relation between physical objects and sense data. C . H. Whiteley claims that, while his perceptual experience alone is not a good reason for his believing in the existence of physical objects, perceptual experience along with certain transcendental clues makes the existence of objects certain. Knowing and Being: Essays by Michael Polanyi. Marjorie Grene, ed. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1969. 246 pp. Reviewed by: James W. Davis* Originally conceived as separate articles covering a wide range of topics, including history, science, and philosophy, the essays contain common threads pertaining particularly to Polanyi’s interest in the epistomology of consciousness. Polanyi’s concepts were revolutionary when written between 1959 and 1968. The centuries of effort that man has put into formulating canons of wholly ‘explicit’ truth are, in his view, partial, if they cannot give in to broader or more realistic truths that consider not only empirical data but the knower and the unknown as well. Polanyi feels that canons that pose as ultimate truth tell us little of the vital human process of finding and experiencing truth and may, in their guise of repleteness, be antithetical to their purported reason for being. In her introduction to the book, Marjorie Grene writes that ‘we live in the tension between what we are and what we seek: between the world whose facticity we share and ourselves whose shaping makes the world a world’. I find this thought reminiscent not only of Polanyi’s theme but also a reiteration of Josef Alber’s statement that ‘art is the discrepancy between physical fact and psychic effect’. Part of Polanyi’s intent seems to be to counter the blind and often proclamative authority given to only * 3425 Johnson St., Macomb, Illinois 61455, U S A . superficially observable aspects of consciousness, with a general ignorance of the processes of consciousness itself. He quotes from several sources to exemplify this point: ‘the existence of something called consciousness is a venerable hypothesis: not a datum, not directly observable . . .’ (Hebb); ‘although we cannot get along without the concept of consciousness, actually there is no such thing’ (Kubie); ‘the knower as an entity is an unnecessary postulate’ (Lashley). The essence of Polanyi’s theory is that the knower is integral to the known in the process of consciousness (knowing), and, further, that what we ordinarily refer to as ‘objective truth’ is in itself limited and impersonal, even though it is often considered the supreme level to which knowledge aspires in the scientific age. Polanyi recognizes two basic kinds of awareness : focal and subsidiary. The first provides the knowledge directly perceivable as aspects of things and the second provides the clues to what is not externally visible but which must also be ‘read’ and understood. He states that ‘we have here the paradigm of all progress in science: discoveries are made by pursuing unsuspected possibilities suggested by existing knowledge’, and ‘what we perceive as an aspect of reality and aspects of reality are clues to yet boundless undisclosed and perhaps as yet unthinkable experience’. The clues that factual knowledge provide are not always readily apparent and it may be necessary to employ shifts in perception in order to realize other levels of truth that also exist. One type of shift would be the...

Because of the difficulty posed by the contrast between the search for truth and truth itself, Michael Polanyi believes that we must alter the foundation of epistemology to include as essential to the very nature of mind, the kind of groping that constitutes the recognition of a problem.

This collection of essays, assembled by Marjorie Grene, exemplifies the development of Polanyi's theory of knowledge which was first presented in Science, Faith, and Society and later systematized in Personal Knowledge.


Polanyi believes that the dilemma of the modern mind arises from the peculiar relation between the positivist claim for total objectivity in scientific knowledge and the unprecedented moral dynamism characterizing the social and political aspirations of the last century. The first part of Knowing and Being deals with this theme. Part two develops Polanyi's idea that centralization is incompatible with the life of science as well as his views on the role of tradition and authority in science. The essays on tacit knowing in Part Three proceed directly from his preoccupation with the nature of scientific discovery and reveal a pervasive substructure of all intelligent behavior. Polanyi believes that all knowing involves movement from internal clues to external evidence. Therefore, to explain the process of knowing, we must develop a theory of the nature of living things in general, including an account of that aspect of living things we call "mind." Part Four elaborates upon this theme.

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