Polanyi Condensate LO25898

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Date: 01/16/01

Replying to LO25872 --

Dear Organlearners,

Fred Nickols <nickols@att.net> writes:

>Toward the end, At writes, "Thank you
>once again Fred. What do you think of
>my reading of the damn books?
>I don't know, At. That's a lot to digest at
>one sitting. I think I'll wait until you get hold
>of the Tacit Dimension and see what kind of
>torrent that releases.
>Have fun...

Greetings Fred,

Thanks for wishing me fun.

I hope that getting "The Tacit Dimension" under my eyes will not release
the "torrents" which happened with "Personal Knowledge" and "Meaning". I
want to do two things. Firstly, I want to make categorically sure for
myself what Michael Polanyi wrote and meant: "We know more than what we
can tell" or "Tacit know(-ing/-ledge) cannot be said". My spirit will not
rest otherwise.

Secondly, I want to create a "Learning Condensate" of The Tacit Dimension.

The creating of Learning Condensates is something which I have pondered
over for a long time. When the paradigm is simplicity, they make little
sense for learning. But when the paradigm is complexity, their role in
learning may become crucial.

Every time when I walk into our university library, I feel like many of
you feel when seeing a long contribution of mine. I want to read, whatever
the subject, as many books in that library as possible, but there are far
too many to read them all through. The situation with journals is even
worse. I want to do the same. However, most of these journals come to aid
by requiring the author(s) of a paper to submit an abstract of it too. So
I read these abstracts rather than the papers. Whenever an abstract
disturb my digestive state of mind into curiosity, perplexity or whatever
else which may transform my mind into a bifurcative state, I will study
the paper self. Usually I discover one of two things: the paper is indeed
compelling or the abstract is misleading. But sometimes I discover that my
own imagination failed. I use my imagination and the abstract as the
framework to paint a rich picture by thinking (which is much faster than
reading) what the paper ought to be about. What I imagined and what is
actually reported in the paper may differ widely.

I intend a Learning Condensate (LC) to do for a book in some sense what an
abstract is doing for a scientific paper. At this stage there are some
clear correspondences as well as differences for me. I will not go into
them now. What I do want to stress now is that a LC of a book is not
intended to replace the book, but to make far more creative use of the
book for the very purpose of sustaining the authentic learning of as many
as possible learners of all kinds.

I once more want to invite fellow learners urgently to participate in a
dialogue on LCs. It seems as if my first LC will be on Polanyi's "The
Tacit Dimension" rather than Prigogine's "From Being to Becoming". Hence
we have to bear in mind not only the wide spectrum of all other authors,
but also Polanyi in particular. I have stressed that should I create LCs
for the two books already received (Personal Knowledge and Meaning), they
will not be done in the same manner. One reason is that there is a
definite evolution in Polanyi's mind from Personal Knowledge to Meaning
which I have to honour. Should is not will.

I still have to receive the other two books (including The Tacit
Dimension) promised. (Fred informed me that they are now on their way --
thank you very much Fred!) But in anticipation I began to compare creating
a LC on Polanyi's "Meaning" with creating a LC on Prigogine's "From Being
to Becoming". I am deeply under impression how vastly different two such
LCs will be. The very reason is to benefit creatively as many as possible
learners of all kinds. Since "Meaning" has no mathematics in it whereas
much mathematics is integral to the main message in "From Being to
Becoming", I will have to transform the mathematics of the latter into
prose. Some of us know that one mathematical formula can say more than a
hundred words. Getting rid of the mathematics while also decreasing the
amount of prose are seemingly conflicting ideals. Thes conflicts will have
to be resolved, come high water or hell. However, this problem will not
occur at all in the LC of "Meaning".

Dear fellow learners, once again, what would you expect from a LC on a
book? I personally know from experiences that to explore in advance
affords far more authentic learning to me than criticising from hindsight.
Perhaps it will help you to focus on a particular book which intrigued you
for some reasons. Then think of any topic (how vague it may be related)
like objectivity, reductionism, wholeness and summary and try to connect
them to the book. Use your learning as the mediator.

As an example I might now do something which will destroy the spirit of
this dialogue. But I will try to avoid judgement in my analysis. Think of
the topic "summary". Students here at our university as well as others in
our country which I have observed, are very fond of working with summaries
of prescribed books. (In secondary schools such summaries prepared by
teachers rather than pupils have become a mania -- judgement?) Few
students create such summaries while the vast rest merely copy them.
Sometimes a summary is left on a table which I will then study closely.
Where possible, I try to compare it with the original book itself. In such
cases my strongest awareness is how much the mind of the student who made
the summary is reflected in that summary in addition to the mind of the
author of the book. I then will usually wonder how many of the other
students who merely copy the summary and do not also study the book will
become aware of this too. This confirms what Polanyi writes in Personal
Knowledge. The ideal of an impersonal, detached, objective knowledge is
fraud because it does not reckon with the tacit dimension of knowledge
which is personal.

In subjects like chemistry and physics the ideal of an impersonal,
detached, objective knowledge is easily impressed on the mind of the
student. It is because the internal organisation of a successful (in
selling) textbook (having several authors) is soon copied in other
textbooks. Since little, if any, of a personal nature is said in such a
textbook, the student gets the idea that this is how the subject matter
has to be organised because the subject matter demands it. Oh, would they
just compare different text books coming from different schools of thought
and often different continents too. The organisation of the subject is not
due to the subject matter itself, but according to the Personal Knowledges
of its authors combined. When a student makes a summary of some chapters
in a chemistry text book, it is instructive to observe how the text book
which they previously used at school is also reflected in that summary. In
this case the Personal Knowledge of the student seems to have been
strongly influenced by past rote learning at school.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <Richard@Karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>

"Learning-org" and the format of our message identifiers (LO1234, etc.) are trademarks of Richard Karash.