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Science, Faith and Society

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  98 ratings  ·  10 reviews
In its concern with science as an essentially human enterprise, Science, Faith and Society makes an original and challenging contribution to the philosophy of science. On its appearance in 1946 the book quickly became the focus of controversy.

Polanyi aims to show that science must be understood as a community of inquirers held together by a common faith; science, he a
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Paperback, 96 pages
Published August 15th 1964 by University of Chicago Press
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  98 ratings  ·  10 reviews


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Christoph
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As a lead text in the contemporary view on the philosophy of science, this is likely the most succicnt and elegant. This slim volume is divided into three lectures with an introduction that contextualizes the arugment for this reprint. Polanyi, a celebrated physical chemist, was also a startingly insightful philsopher on many different subject. For chemists, it seems the necessarily theoretical aspect of the physical discipline produces some interesting characters, which in some ways is a fact t ...more
Marcus Lira
First things first: Although Karl Popper had already published his idealised account of science in The Logic of Scientific Discovery some 9 years before these lectures, which ushered in something of a golden age in philosophy of science, Michael Polanyi doesn't seem to have been much affected by it - their Austro-Hungarian origins notwithstanding. Also, even though he shares many insights with Thomas S. Kuhn (who is said to have attended some of Polanyi's lectures anyway), this is not exactly a pre-First things first: Although Karl Popper had already published his idealised account of science in The Logic of Scientific Discovery some 9 years before these lectures, which ushered in something of a golden age in philosophy of science, Michael Polanyi doesn't seem to have been much affected by it - their Austro-Hungarian origins notwithstanding. Also, even though he shares many insights with Thomas S. Kuhn (who is said to have attended some of Polanyi's lectures anyway), this is not exactly a pre-The Structure of Scientific Revolutions either. Scientific change is not really the central theme of this book. Having said that, it's a very good read.

As a PhD student, I must admit Polanyi gave the best description I've ever seen from a philosopher about actual scientific practice. Science behaves almost exactly the way he says, and I can't help noticing it's in accordance with pragmatist epistemology (he does mention John Dewey at some point) with his anti-scepticism and the belief in social knowledge (two points Charles Sanders Peirce would find all too familiar). If he seems to reduce science to mob mentality, that's because there's some truth to it. We're all flawed anyway.

Now, I would've given this book 4 stars had he not let scientists off the hook so easily (there's hardly any criticism that isn't embedded in several layers of justification saying it could be worse). Also, I'd have given it 5 stars had he offered solutions and ideas to scientists' shortcomings - instead, he just shows freedom and love for truth (loosely defined) are needed to keep science going, which is most definitely correct... but as Paul Karl Feyerabend later pointed out, this shouldn't be taken lightly.
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Hokomoko
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: timely-reads
I picked up and held onto this slim volume from my university days. I took a course from Paul Feyerabend concerning Philosophy of Science. I never came to it until now.

This book treats, among other things, the reasons for denial of science and truth, as well as its effect on society as a whole and science in particular. Structured as three lectures, most of the material concerns how science proceeds with a certain faith in the pursuit of truth. The author posits a generall will to the truth - b
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Arno Mosikyan
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We meet here with a new definition of reality. Real is that which is expected to reveal itself indeterminately in the future.

Every interpretation of nature, whether scientific, non-scientific or anti-scientific, is based on some intuitive conception of the general nature of things.

All the efforts of the discoverer are but preparations for the main event of discovery, which eventually takes place—if at all—by a process of spontaneous mental reorganization uncontrolled by c
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Chris Fellows
Mar 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Having read this book I am a bit more sympathetic to some of the confused ideas displayed in Alan Chalmers’ What Is This Thing Called Science?, since here the same sort of confusion is being perpetrated by a very skilled practicing scientist.

Polanyi considers science as a distinct human activity carried out by a self-perpetuating group reminiscent of a Mediaeval guild bound by shared values and is concerned with the features of this group, rather than the more fundamental question of what it means to sa
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B
Dec 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, westend
This was good but too short. There's a nagging sense it's unproven, but it's not especially unproved for descriptive political science which is what it really is.

This is a combination of (1) basic political science (Who governs and how?) and (2) a strong reaction to Communist and fascist control of science (then novel.)

It takes a lot of focus to read but is not especially esoteric. There's a lot going on in each sentence.

Probably unfortunate I'm reading it at the same time as Again
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Sam
Sep 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sam by: Honors Retreat 2010
Brilliant analysis of the nature of science, the impossibility of "objective science", and the presuppositions that necessarily govern science, turning science into more of an art form than a rigid process. He argues for the necessity of tradition and the nature of scientific authority, and finally extends his analysis out into society as a whole and looks at how science interacts with other disciplines and society at large.
Charlie
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a short, but very rich book!

Polanyi makes the case that science is just one of many ways of "knowing" that should be described as "art."
Scott Canatsey
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great treatment of the subject matter. Helps one to "connect the dots" in this treatise.
Patricia
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: donated
Intriguing philosophical theory about the ways in which science is an integral part of our spiritual and communal society
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Michael Polanyi was a Hungarian-British polymath, who made important theoretical contributions to physical chemistry, economics, and philosophy.

His wide-ranging research in physical science included chemical kinetics, x-ray diffraction, and adsorption of gases.

He argued that positivism supplies a false account of knowing, which if taken seriously undermines humanity's highe
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