Polanyi, Personal Knowledge

Michael. Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy.
Chicago: UChicago Press, 1974.

Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge, from 1958, integrates several of the
perspectives he’d developed in articles between 1952-1958 toward the rejection
objectivism as the ultimate aim of scientific inquiry. Further, he
advances his arguments that personal participation doesn’t necessarily
result in subjectivity. The scientist’s way of knowing is always
inherently personal; even the scientific method, which Polanyi breaks
down and suggests to be subject to probability, chance, propositions, and
gradations of confidence, is lodged in personal knowledge through and through.

Personal Knowledge is a precursor to Polanyi’s more direct account of
tacit knowledge in The Tacit Tradition. Personal Knowledge begins
to get at matters of felt sense (hunches, intuition, and guesses), but as an
argument for a renewed and expanded epistemology of science rooted in the
personal construction of knowledge (often inarticulable knowledge), it is
chiefly concerned with the earliest stages of the larger arguments for tacit
knowing: exposing the faulty grounds of objectivism.

Returns: Sum section I (63), Tools and Frameworks (58), Wholes and Meanings
(57), articulate and inarticulate intelligence (70).

Key terms: personal participation, personal knowledge (18), probability
statements (20), touch (50), subsidiary awareness (55), focal awareness (55),
articulation (70), inarticulate intelligence (71), motility (71), perception
(73), latent learning (74), heuristic passion (142).

"At all these points the act of knowing includes an appraisal;
and this personal coefficient, which shapes all factual knowledge,
bridges in doing so the disjunction between subjectivity and
. It implies the claim that man can transcend his own
subjectivity by striving passionately to fulfill his personal obligations to
universal standards" (17).

"I shall take as my clue for this investigation [of skills] that the aim of a
skilful performance is achieved by observance of a set of rules
which are not known as such to the person following them" (49).

On wholes and parts: "Gestalt psychology has described the transformation of
an object into a tool and the accompanying transposition of feeling, as
for example from the palm to the tip of a probe, as instances of the absorption
of a part into a whole. I have covered the same ground in somewhat modified
terms in order to bring out the logical structure in which a person commits
himself to certain beliefs and appreciations, and accepts certain meanings by
deliberately merging his awareness of certain particulars into a focal
awareness of a whole
. The logical structure is not apparent in the automatic
perception of visual and auditory wholes from which Gestalt psychology has
derived its prevailing generalizations" (57). Rel. to studium and punctum
in the perceptual field? Is the difference between Gestalt and connectionism
their alignments with percepts and concepts, respectively? [Probably not, but
it’s a question I should work out.]

"Our appreciation of the externality of objects lying outside our
body, in contrast to parts of our own body, relies on our subsidiary
of processes within our body" (59).

"We may test the tool for its effectiveness or the probe for its
suitability, e.g. in discovering the hidden details of a cavity, but the tool
and the probe can never lie in the field of these operations; they remain
necessarily on our side of it, forming part of ourselves, the operating
persons. We pour ourselves out into them and assimilate them as
parts of our own experience. We accept them existentially by
in them" (59).

"The tracing of personal knowledge to its roots in the subsidiary
of our body as merged in our focal awareness of external objects,
reveals not only the logical structure of personal knowledge but also its
dynamic sources
" (60).

"Yet personal knowledge in science is not made but
, and as such it claims to establish contact with reality beyond
the clues on which it relies. It commits us, passionately and far beyond our
comprehension, to a vision of reality" (64). In section I summary (63-65).

"Technology teaches action. This is made plain when it speaks
in imperatives, as it often does in cookery books or directions for the
use of machinery…. All technology is equivalent to a conditional
, for it is not possible to define a technology without
acknowledging, at least at second hand, the advantages which technical
operations might reasonably pursue" (176). In "Intellectual Passions: Science
and Technology," 174-184.

"[This book’s] aim is to re-equip men with the faculties which centuries of
critical thought have taught them to distrust. The reader has been invited to
use these faculties and contemplate thus a picture of things restored to their
fairly obvious nature. This is all the book was meant to do" (381).