42 Matching Annotations
  1. Jul 2018
    1. In Prosch's view, it was a recovery of belief in transcendent ideals that grounds a free society; this recovery most concerned Polanyi. Polanyi argued, "we needed to develop an epistemology adequate to humane thought and to use it in the reformation of those views of man which will lend an ontological basis for his grasp of his own dignity and high calling in the universe."
    2. Polanyi believed that it was possible to preserve a basic polycentric system and yet also make significant socially desirable modifications of the system of spontaneous order that the market establishes. Nevertheless, Polanyi recognized that even while humans work for the moral improvement of society "we must acknowledge that we can reduce unjust privileges only by graded states, and never completely."
    3. Prosch neglects to emphasize that Polanyi uses the term broadly to point to the opportunities that are present in any person's historicalsocial setting. Polanyi consistently resists deterministic modern historicist views and Prosch should make such convictions clearer.
    4. He discusses Polanyi's account of freedom and his criticisms of Marxism, fascism, utilitarianism, and pragmatism as popular modern perspectives that all fail to recognize the importance of specialized communities (e.g., science, law, religion, etc.) that serve transcendent ideals.
    5. all of the broader human endeavors of the noösphere that Polanyi affirms as worthy pursuits are possible only in a certain kind of social environment. Thus Polanyi was vigilantly "concerned about securing the conditions essential for these activities."
    6. Their validity therefore rests for him precisely in their power to do this and to continue to do this for us
    7. The meanings of symbols and art are thus a special class of meanings that Polanyi designated "transnatural," and the transnatural meanings of works of art are set off from the ordinary run of daily life in which the indicative integrations of perception and non-symbolic inquiry are normative. The self-giving integrations of representational arts thus always involve incompatibility and require imagination in a way that self-centered integrations which produce natural meaning do not.
    8. Metaphors are meaning structures that require imaginative participation and they move us: "Metaphors, through our participation in them, literally establish meaning in our lives—a meaning that could never be established through perception or scientific knowing, and certainly never rendered explicit and 'told' in any prosaic fashion.
    9. Self-giving integrations thus involve a kind of engagement or participation that is not present in self-centered integrations.
    10. The subsidiary particulars of self-giving integrations are intrinsically interesting, unlike the focal object of such integrations; such integrations produce meaning that moves us deeply because the focal object is a perceptual embodiment of diffuse memories and other inchoate but emotionally important matters
    11. Polanyi late in life came to distinguish the class of tacit knowing operations involved in normal sign operations (indication) from symbolic operations, calling the integrations that recognize symbolic meaning "self-giving" as opposed to the "selfcentered" integrations of indication ("self-centered" here does not suggest an egotistical focusing upon oneself but refers to the way the self participates in the processes of integration).
    12. But Prosch wants to make plain his view that "Polanyi, of course, never lost sight of the fact that there are differences between the integrations and realities forming the noösphere and those existing prior to the noösphere.
    13. the meaningful integrations achieved by man in the noösphere form a continuum with those achieved in perception and knowledge, in the sense that they are all examples of the tacit triad: (1) a mind (2) dwelling in subsidiary clues and (3) creating a meaningful integration of these clues into a focally known whole.214
    14. He summarizes Polanyi's ideas about the operation of principles within boundary conditions and his account of "ontological hierarchies as structuring everything."211 He outlines Polanyi's notions about the "achievement" of living beings, which is for Polanyi an "essential concept."212 He summarizes Polanyi's criticisms of the reductionistic accounts of evolution in his time.
    15. the key to discovery is understanding how scientists come up with good problems. Prosch lays out Polanyi's views about discerning good problems, as well as the way Polanyi emphasizes commitment and universal intent, and the passionate and deeply personal nature of the discover's contact with reality.
    16. Polanyi built his conception upon ideas first developed in Gestalt psychology's partial rejection of mechanical approaches to perception, but he also rejected Gestalt notions about spontaneous equilibration. Prosch discusses how Polanyi conceived the operation of signs: they "function as clues and are known in a subsidiary way as bearing upon a meaningful integration of them forming that which is known in a focal way.
    17. The second section of Prosch's book moves from a review of Polanyi's diagnosis of the sickness of the modern mind to a fivechapter discussion of his prescription to cure the sickness. The cure was, of course, to develop a new understanding of knowledge and how persons acquire knowledge. All of these chapters treat important topics as they build on each other. First Prosch sets forth Polanyi's ideas about how tacit knowing operates at a foundational level in human perception. He then moves to a broader discussion of Polanyi's account of indwelling and generalization, followed by his analysis of Polanyi's ideas about scientific discovery and the problems of verification.
    18. . Polanyi saw the modern obsession with exactitude and countered it by hinting at the value of the inexact in most areas of inquiry.
    19. Prosch very aptly describes Polanyi's sense that intellectuals and others in the twentieth century acquired an "all-pervasive moral dissatisfaction" 202 with everything about modern industrial civilization.
    20. the simple fact that cognitive activity is a social phenomenon does not entail that it is bogus or that its results are unreliable.
    21. social and political considerations factor into the discovery and formulation of knowledge," but Polanyi takes a quite different stand regarding the "proper interpretation of the significance of such factors
    22. Gill argues, for example, that Polanyi's discussions of language, tacit knowing, and meaning do not, like the deconstructivists, "overshoot the mark."172 "The dynamics of tacit knowing preclude the possibility that any symbol can be thought of as attached to any referent in a permanent manner. Just as reality continuously reveals itself, so do linguistic meanings."
    23. Polanyi's approach to knowing is one that emphasizes that "knowing can and must have a place to begin that neither guarantees certainty nor leads to subjectivism.
    24. how Polanyi's philosophy has "heuristic threads" running throughout that touch "the theme of finding, discovering, growing, expanding, [and] enriching."138 He nicely captures Polanyi's optimism and realism about human beings: Polanyi is a thinker "who sets before us the opportunity for unlimited exploration if we can learn to live with the infinite under the conditions of finite existence."139 Gelwick's discussions outline the finer details of Polanyi's ideas but he also always is keenly attuned to the broadest parameters of Polanyi's philosophy: "Viewed in its totality, Polanyi's philosophy is one that is aimed primarily at the equipping and encouraging of humans in the unending task of pursuing meaning and truth."14
    25. Thus by "following through the nature of discovery, we are led to a total rethinking of the general ideal of knowledge in our culture.
    26. Gelwick also shows that Polanyi found in Gestalt psychology some clues to the way creative imagination plays into the problem of scientific discovery. Gestalt thinkers recognized that seeing a pattern involves the creation of a coherent whole (itself more than the sum of its parts, or pieces), but "Gestalt psychology had stopped at a more mechanistic point and had regarded perception to be an internal equilibration of external stimuli."127 What Polanyi added was the conclusion that seeing a pattern "is the outcome of an intentional effort of the person to find order in reality.
    27. Polanyi thought that the selection of a problem to investigate was a key factor in discovery. Often the importance of a problem was not recognizable until after a discovery. Polanyi's experience taught him that strictness and rigor of procedure were secondary to creative imagination in scientific work and that this meant that matters of personal judgment were deeply a part of scientific discovery.
    28. Gelwick argues that Polanyi always respected the methods of science but, based on his experience as a scientist, increasingly came to disagree with the common views projected by objectivism about the methods of science. Polanyi turned toward discovery as the key to science and he realized that not much work had been done on discovery.
    29. Polanyi reasserted that "science progresses by guessing at aspects of reality indicated by clues in what is seen and heard, just as we guess that certain sounds indicate the presence of a real burglar and go to look.
    30. Polanyi's notion of "reality" is not a simple notion that focuses on tangibility: "we recognize something as real because it draws us on, makes us feel an obligation to search and discover, rewards us by revealing more and unexpected but recognisable meaning."87 Minds are, for Polanyi, more richly real than cobblestones, and we can know rich realities only by deeply dwelling in their particulars.
    31. Not all knowledge is explicit, exact, and testable, Polanyi argues, but all that is explicit, exact, and testable relies upon tacit elements used by a knower to attend to what is of interest. By carefully discussing skills, Scott shows how Polanyi broadens and reworks the traditional understanding of acquiring and holding knowledge. She discusses Polanyi's interest in the practical, skillful, and bodily elements of all knowing by reinterpreting Gestalt ideas and partwhole dynamics:
    32. Mitchell emphasizes how tradition is always linked to a community that embraces and passes forward valued practices and ideals: ". . . knowing requires the existence of a society committed to a particular tradition and engaged in passing it on.
    33. First there is a discussion of what Polanyi draws from Augustine, the recognition of the "indispensable role belief plays in all knowing." 37 But according to Mitchell, "while Polanyi embraces an Augustinian approach to epistemology, he is decidedly non- Augustinian in his view of social progress
    34. Out of his interest in belief and commitment grows a richer understanding of what Polanyi later called the "structure of tacit knowing."36 The sections in Mitchell's chapter are meant to mirror this development in Polanyi's ideas.
    35. Mitchell clearly sets forth Polanyi's account of the moral and political implications of objectivism, showing how the turn to modern philosophical suppositions ultimately leads to what Polanyi calls "moral inversion," which is a "combination of skeptical rationalism and moral perfectionism.
    36. n science, Polanyi argues that "individual freedom is restrained by an authority that is created by the practioners themselves but it is ultimately rooted in a common commitment to transcendent ideals
    37. Polanyi is not a garden-variety libertarian opposing totalitarianism. His early writing provides a liberal vision of an evolving, pluralistic society in which human beings take on responsibility within the many specialized communities of interest like science and the law, and the work of such sub-cultural groups benefits society as a whole. This vision is an application of Polanyi's support of polycentricity as it pertains to moral and intellectual rather than primarily economic matters.
    38. Polanyi's position is that "[c]apitalism is the only viable option, but this does not imply that the state has no role beyond enforcing contracts and preventing fraud. On the contrary, the state can work (albeit at the margins) to ensure that the market operates as effectively as possible."22 Mitchell nicely summarizes Polanyi's ideas about how the government might influence the money supply to affect the employment rate. This is a synthesis of Keynesian and monetarist economics that went largely unrecognized by economists of his time.
    39. how the modern conception of knowledge contributes to the political and moral problems of the twentieth century.
    40. I somewhat expand my discussion of Harry Prosch's Michael Polanyi, A Critical Exposition not only because it is an interesting and valuable book, but because its author was co-author with Michael Polanyi of Polanyi's final book, Meaning.
    41. There is, however, an array of secondary literature that anyone initially put off by Polanyi's texts should know is available. An overview as well as some detail about Polanyi's ideas can be helpful to prospective Polanyi readers. My purpose here is to review some of the best of this secondary literature, which puts Polanyi's ideas in a context and shows their scope and coherence.
    42. Polanyi's real agenda was not only to criticize some of the popular philosophical approaches of the mid-twentieth century but to attack some of the assumptions of the modern turn in philosophy beginning in the seventeenth century. Polanyi attacks some Enlightenment values, but he affirms other Enlightenment values. Therefore, grasping the contours of his constructive philosophical alternative to "objectivism" in Personal Knowledge is not easy.