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Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy Paperback – Aug 15 1974


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 442 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (Aug. 15 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226672883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226672885
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

“Polanyi’s monumental work, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, takes the shape of an orderly rejection of the false ideal of wholly explicit and wholly impersonal, so-called objective knowledge. The human mind, for him, is not an impersonal machine engaged in the manufacture of truth. In fact, Personal Knowledge represents a compelling critique of the positivist claim for total objectivity in scientific knowledge. . . . Polanyi, the scientist-philosopher, calls forth an enormous array of examples to show that the scientist himself is engaged in acts of personal acceptance and judgment in the very doing of science.”
(Philosophy Today)

“Rich in insights, groundbreaking in its interpretations, Personal Knowledge deserves to be better known.”
(Science and Education) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Michael Polanyi (1891–1976) was a Hungarian-British chemist and philosopher, a fellow of the Royal Society, and a fellow of Merton College, Oxford. His many books include Science, Faith, and Society; Knowing and Being; and Meaning, all published by the University of Chicago Press. 
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andrew M. Johnson on June 12 2003
Format: Paperback
I am fairly familiar with Polanyi's work and I thought it might be helpful to suggest who could benefit from this book. I would recommend this text to scientists and students who are interested in the philosophical issues and implications of their work, epistemology enthusiasts, philosophy students, and anyone trying to grapple with why Cartesian philosophy doesn't seem to explain reality.
Personal Knowledge is a dense read and Polanyi expects the reader to be familiar with many scientific and philosophic histories. It will require several reads to begin to get a grasp on the core of the material, but even a cursory reading is enjoyable and will challenge your thinking.
If you are not hip on philosophy, but are still interested in Polanyi's view of knowing reality, there are several texts available. If you don't know what the Cartesian Enlightenment is, then Meek's text "Longing to Know" is an excellent lucid primer that a high-schooler can understand. Drucilla Scott's text, "Everyman Revived" does a good job of expositing Polanyi with some biographical data as well.
The reason I rated this text 5 stars is because it is one of the best books I have ever read. However, it is not for everyone. not even a small minority of people will truly enjoy this book. So I hope I helped you become a member of the fractional minority or vice versa.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Dec 13 2003
Format: Paperback
"Personal Knowledge" by Michael Polanyi is still a valuable contribution, even now.
"Magellan" has said that subjectivist investigations don't buy you much anymore, but consider this:
Objectivist investigations don't tell you anything about how to use your own mind- the only tool you have for understanding Science to begin with. Yes, our brain is incredibly complex- yes, it has scientifically-investigatable structures which may be responsible for our consciousness- but without the actual, unavoidably personal use of your brain, you have nowhere to begin. I have all the structures that Magellan discussed in my brain, serving me at this very moment- but their function is underneath even what Polanyi calls "subsidiary knowledge". We can be aware of how our mental processes appear to behave to our conscious mind, but we are not aware of the work and usage of our individual neurons. If Magellan can show me how to become aware of the individual structures in my brain with all their individual neurons, and consciously micro-mangage their function in a way that results in me obtaining a better understanding of the world than I have only through the subjective perspective of my conscious mind, then I will say Polanyi is useless.
Until then, exclusively Objectivist investigations of the conscious mind won't buy you much, in terms of understanding how you (necessarily working out of the perspective of your own state of consciousness) comprehend the world we live in. If you want to learn something, anything, from science-- and still retain a sense that you can legitimately use your own subjective mind (albiet carefully) as you learn-- then it is worth reading Polanyi.
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Format: Paperback
Polanyi's book is hard stuff, indeed. His arguments and examples especially from his own field, i.e. chemistry, are often not too easy to understand let alone to be verified. But the book lacks any kind of obscurantism. The difficulties might stem from the actual thesis of the book itself: Knowledge is not gained by an objective flow of events and therefore the necessary outcome of a determined scientific endeavour, but it's grounded in so human conditions as the sense of beauty and passion. There's always a foreshadowing of the kind of enterprise and even of probable results that make scientists follow some line of argument or experiment and letting the other, so Polanyi's thesis. The decision therefore is not guided by any objective and given fact, but mainly lies in the realm of the scholar's interest, which gains a sense of reality, yet. I'm not sure, whether Polanyi would be pleased by that, but certainly he stands in the tradition of Kant and Wittgenstein, who in their respective develepment of a theory of knowledge point to the fact, that it's always human condition that shapes knowledge. There's no such thing as the being itself but always being as perceived through our senses (Kant) or language (Wittgenstein). In a time, where in the so-called life- sciences the human being is in danger of being reduced to his/ her genes and by that to the raw material of any kind of possible experiments, the voice of Polanyi should be heard, because the refutation of objectivism gets into the heart of the matter.
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Format: Paperback
Books on epistemology tend to be dreary affairs. Epistemology, which is the branch of philosophy that studies how human beings acquire and "validate" their knowledge, tend to be largely speculative and logical. Most theories of epistemology that are inflicted upon the world are nothing more than the highly artificial constructions of some philosopher telling us all how we "ought" to attain and validate our knowledge. Any correspondence to how men really attain knowledge is usually pure coincidence. Moreover, in many instances, the epistemological philosopher has some special agenda which he is seeking to impose on his readers by confusing them with a mass of epistemological pedantry. He may be trying to prove the validity of a largely speculative form of "reason" or of definitions or of certainty or of a perfect and immaculate form of "objectivity" or of some other equally utopian and irrelevant principle.
In the light of all this philosophical pretension, it is refreshing to come across a book like Polanyi's "Personal Knowledge." Polanyi was a chemist trained in the methods of science. He understands, as few merely speculative philosophers do, the necessity of deriving theories from facts, rather than facts from theories. Yet Polanyi is more than just a scientist; he is also a very shrewd and critical thinker who does not shrink from challenging long cherished assumptions within his own discipline of science. "Personal Knowledge" is, among other things, an attack on what might be called "naive objectivism," which can be defined as the epistemological view which holds that the only valid knowledge is that which can be articulated and tested by strictly impersonal methods.
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