THE WAY OF DISCOVERY: An Introduction to the Thought of Michael Polanyi by Richard Gelwick

THE WAY OF DISCOVERY: An Introduction to the Thought of Michael Polanyi

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This exegesis on the work of Michael Polanyi, the Hungarian-born physical chemist cum philosopher who died last year, is by a devoted follower and friend. Gelwick, Head of the Religion and Philosophy Department at Stephens College, first met Polanyi in Berkeley in 1962, has since edited papers and letters and been associated with the Polanyi Society. In this volume he interprets the major works--Personal Knowledge: Toward a Post-Critical Philosophy, the Tacit Dimension, Knowing and Being--arguing that Polanyi's philosophy represents a new paradigm in epistemology. In essence Polanyi begins with an attack on scientific objectivity. He asserts that this is a false ideal which has been reinforced by Cartesian dualism and the rise of science and technology. This has led to the present dilemma of reductionism, moral inversions, existential absurdity, dehumanized man. Polanyi would restore the Knower with the Known, fact with value. The impetus for this restoration comes from his analysis of discovery in art and science. Here Polanyi's ideas are strongly informed by the Gestalt school. His notions of ""subsidiary"" knowing and the tacit dimension, are that they are the necessary framework the discoverer brings to any creative act. They are a part of education, tradition, culture, and personal knowledge and they are vital to the inception of the interesting, fruitful insight. Moreover this element of ""being"" introduces the possibility of error, hazard, risk, and hence moral values and responsibility in truth-seeking. These are stimulating ideas and Gelwick presents them with clarity and enthusiasm (albeit occasionally all too worshipfully). That they represent a paradigmatic shift is premature. One can, in any case, read them as a sign of growing interest in synthesizing Gestalt perceptual ideas with the notion of the creative leap--the risk of faith--in science, where, heretofore, the language and dynamics have usually been associated with Christian existentialism.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press