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Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  171 ratings  ·  18 reviews
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 passion ...more
Paperback, 442 pages
Published August 15th 1974 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1958)
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Chris Coffman
Sep 12, 2007 Chris Coffman rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those interested in science and art
This is a densely written book which is rich in ideas. Polanyi was a chemist of the first rank, and the scientific precision with which he expresses himself can be, frankly, tedious; in this respect he reminds me of the phenomenonlogist Edmund Husserl, who was the betrayed mentor of Heidegger.

Perhaps Polanyi's key insight is that there is no certainty--not in scientific facts, nor in logic, nor in rationality. Everything that we "know", we have actually made a personal commitment to accept as tr
...more
Colleen
This is not for the faint-of-heart - it's challenging and difficult in many places, but is one of the few books that Len Sweet assigns to every doctoral class that he teaches. You will definitely be rewarded if you persevere, but maybe find a friend with whom you can discuss and compare notes! It's about the fallacy of the purely scientific method and the impossibility of there being any kind of "objective" knowledge.
Christoph
Wow, what a long slog this one was.... I have been off-and-on reading this for what feels like two years now. I first happened upon Polyani after reading a pamphlet of his that touched on one of the themes of this work, that science is not a dogmatic authoritarian system of reason but an art that is practiced using all the inequitable faculties of humans. That work was amazing (I even gave it five stars); but this book was the inevitability of extending that pamphlet across 400 pages of jargon-l ...more
Joseph Sverker
This is certainly an essential book to read if one is interested in epistemology in general and absolutely necessary if one is wanting to understand more of the scientific method and the myth that is upheld about science's objectivity. Polanyi argues very well, and well informed, about how the scientist needs to be personal in his/her quest for knowledge. Personal knowledge does not directly lead to relativity though. But here I think is the weak point in the book. I didn't perhaps read it as th ...more
Andrew
This is such a thick, dense book, and so rich with ideas, some of which are brilliant and subtle, some of which reek of bullshit, and a great deal of which contradict each other.

The core of it: think harder about things, science isn't quite as positivist as we think it is, our daily experiences are peppered with acts of faith, and that everything occurs on multiple levels of experience-- our challenge as people-who-know-things is to be cognizant of our acts of faith, and to realize which levels
...more
Andrew
This is a book with whose project I have much sympathy. This sounds awkward and condescending, and that is my fault, but it’s true. It is the effort of a successful chemist (who turned to philosophy later in his career) to engage with the broader implications of scientific knowledge and activity on the wider field of human knowledge. It seeks to challenge what Polanyi considers the orthodoxy of the critical mindset, which he regards as little better than scientism. Ultimately, however, all Polan ...more
Jillian
Polanyi crafted an amazing work here that explores the impossibility of strict objectivity in science and other fields. Even though this book is about fifty years old, Polanyi's language is contemporary and easy to understand. His concepts (to me) were revolutionary. And although there were gaps, as there always are in revolutions, the book was educational. I especially enjoyed his application of tacit knowledge to the written word. (Yes! The scientists speaks on the text!)
Sanford Forte
In "Personal Knowledge" the late Michael Polanyi, a Nobel-prize-winning Physical Chemist - created a tour-de-force analysis that explores the tacit, subjective nature of thought. Polanyi makes a superb case against separating thought into the silos of "fact" and "value". This is not a book for the faint of heart, but a careful read will bring many rewards. It's a classic, and well worth the work that one must put into it.
Harry Dewulf
I don't think I'm going to finish this. It is altogether too rhetorical, and the rhetoric is not skillful enough for me to appreciate it for that. Strip away the rhetoric and you get a peevish monomaniac with a bee in his bonnet about secularist scientism, which is itself at worst a straw man who is occasionally used as a scarecrow. This book is wholly unnecessary.
Ryan
Polanyi's book does a good job pointing out the relevance and need for intuitions for the workings of science and in solving the demarcation problem. This book is important for people who want to see from the perspective of science as a human endeavor, instead of seeing science as something a robot or trained monkey could perform.
Glenn Durden
This is a very dense and difficult book to read if you are not a seasoned reader of philosophy. Nevertheless it is worthwhile to plough one's way through it and glean what can be had. I recommend it only to the experienced reader and wish that I was able to get more out of it.
Matthew
This is a fantastic alternative account of epistemology from the objectivizing non-personal accounts which the enlightenment has brought us. Polanyi is a must read for Christians who are serious about epistemology. Also recommended is Esther Lightcap Meek.
Lance
Polanyi's message: Science can no longer stand on its value-free objectivity. Scientists, like most men, bring their values into their work, whether they know it or not.
mahatma
sedang dibaca.
tertarik krena polanyi memasuki pertentangan antara dunia seni dan sains.
perkara epistemologi sedang menarik minat saya.
Lisa
Read this in college, when I had to. Now I WANT to read it.
Celeste De Bease
One of the pillars of my thought development
Jonathan Ward
The answer to Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason".
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“So far as we know, the tiny fragments of the universe embodied in man are the only centers of thought and responsibility in the visible world. If that be so, the appearance of the human mind has been so far the ultimate stage in the awakening of the world; and all that has gone before, the striving of myriad centers that have taken the risks of living and believing, seem to have all been pursuing, along rival lines, the aim now achieved by us up to this point. They are all akin to us, for all these centers - those which led up to our own existence and the far more numerous others which produced different lines of which many are extinct - may be seen engaged in the same endeavor towards ultimate liberation. We may envisage then a cosmic field which called forth all these centers by offering them a short-lived, limited, hazardous opportunity for making some progress of their own towards an unthinkable consummation. And that is also, I believe, how a Christian is placed when worshiping God.” 5 likes
“Christianity sedulously fosters, and in a sense permanently satisfies, man's craving for mental dissatisfaction by offering him the comfort of a crucified God.” 4 likes
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