Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension LO25960

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Date: 01/22/01

Replying to LO25942 --

Dear Organlearners,

Fred Nickols <nickols@att.net> writes:

>At writes:
>>I have now received also the other two books:
>>"Science, Faith and Society" and "The Tacit
>>Dimension". Thank very much again Fred!
>You are welcome At. I can't recall the last time I ever
>hired a tutor so inexpensively. :-)

Greetings dear Fred,

I am rather reminded of the following biblical saying ;-)
"thou shall not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn"

>>Fred wrote long ago that Michael Polanyi (MP) defined that
>>tacit knowledge CANNOT be told.
>I sure did and after reading this post earlier I'm beginning
>to regret it.

In my own authentic learning I try to transform a "regret" as soon as
possible into a new phase of learning.
>Polanyi's statement that "We can know more
>than we can tell" conveys clearly the notion that
>there are some things we know that we cannot
>articulate -- and I believe that what we know and
>cannot tell qualifies as tacit knowledge -- but, I'm
>starting to wonder if ALL tacit knowledge is restricted
> to those things we know AND cannot tell. In other
>words, might some of what we know and CAN tell also
>qualify as tacit?

Let us "lift out the form" of "We can know more than we can tell" as
. [we can know] > [we can tell]
Now consider the following simple, perhaps too simple, example
. [we can know a number] > [we can tell the number 3]
Mathematicians would make this form even more concise by writing it as
. X > 3

What you and Artur as well as many other fellow learners clearly see is
. X = NOT 3
where the "= NOT" means "is equal to not". It means what it says, namely
that X cannot be articulated by the number three. Nevertheless, there are now
innumerous things we can do to arrive ate the number 3 because it is in the
articulated form. For example, we can do things like
. X = NOT (1 + 2)
. X = NOT (4 - 1)
. X = NOT (2 x 1.5)
. X = NOT (6 / 3)
But all these things are subjected to
. X = NOT 3
It means that we have told a lot about 3, but nothing yet of X. This is
what Michael Polanyi (MP) says what is happening in traditional science.
It tells a lot of the right hand side of the equation "can tell a number",
but nothing of the left hand "can know a number".

But let us now consider what he thinks of as the "indwelling" and
"interiorization" of knowledge by using information. We can transform
mathematically each of the four examples above into
. X - 2 > 1
. X + 1 > 4
. X / 1.5 > 2
. X x 3 > 6
which then in terms of the "cannot" becomes again
. X - 2 = NOT 1
. X + 1 = NOT 4
. X / 1.5 = NOT 2
. X x 3 = NOT 6

Let us look what has happened. Firstly, the "NOT 3" has now become "NOT
1", "NOT 4", "NOT 2" and "NOT 6". The painting has become richer !!! But
can we infer from that rich painting that X itself is also "NOT 1", "NOT
4", "NOT 2" and "NOT 6" as it is "NOT 3" in the beginning? Never in our
lives. It may very well be that the X (the number we can know) eventually
turns out to be the number 6 so that indeed
. 6 > 3
Thus we cannot infer from
. X > 3
that X will never be even 6. No, we have to infer that X is any possible
number greater than 3 and that two cases above (4 and 6) are two
possibilities, but not the other two cases above (1 and 2).

However, we have to observe also a second thing happening. Just as on the
right hand side the ONE number 3 is MAPPING (transforming) TO MANY numbers
(of which 1, 2, 4 and 6 are given as examples), on the left hand side the
ONE X is also MAPPING (transforming) to MANY number forms (of which X-2,
X+1, X/1.5 and Xx3 are corresponding to the given examples). This
"one-to-many-mapping" on the left hand side is a metaphor of the
"indwelling and interiorizarion of knowledge" which MP speaks of.

The big question now is "What happens inside X"? Yes, we should not fail
to observe that what we have done up to now, we have been doing on the
outside of X. Let us try to answer this question. One answer can be "we
cannot tell anything what happens inside X". The opposite answer is "we
can tell all what happens inside X". These two answers exclude each other.
Should we allow only these two cases to allow eventually only one of them,
then we have invoked LEM (Law of Excluded Middle). In other words, we have
admitted that LEM operates in X so as to determine which case it is. It
means that we have articulated LEM as operating in X!

MP could have done it too. But he actually does something else in a most
wise manner. He carefully argues with several examples that within X there
is a dynamical "from-to" structure. He articulates something of X. He does
not articulate all of X and he does not articulate nothing of X. In other
words, he does not allow LEM to dictate the inside of X. He deliberately
suspends LEM so as to try and find out what happens in X with the facts to
his disposal. He then articulates his finding as the dynamical "from-to"
structure in X.

Mathematicians never go into their mysterious X. MP dare to explore the
inside of his X with a profound discovery.

I cannot help but to notice the remarkable correspondence between MP and
Ilya Progigine (IP). IP does something based on dissipation ("entropy
production") and arrives at something which he embodies in the book with
title: "from BEING to BECOMING". IP also becomes aware of a dynamical
"from-to" structure, not in the Tacit Dimension, but in all nature! Does
it mean that MP is inferior because he did not identified "from" where
"to" where? No, he actually use the case "from KNOWLEDGE to KNOWING" to
help him in articulating the Tacit Dimension with its dynamical "from-to"
structure inside it!

>I'm going to have to reread Polanyi.
>Drat! I knew if I sent At those "damn books" I'd be making
>work for myself.
>Oh well...
>I'll come back to this thread after re-reading The Tacit Dimension.

Paying cheap for a tutor does not imply logically that this tutor will not
know how to let the student work self ;-)

Nevertheless, learning further has always been the kind of work which gave
me the greatest fun. It took me many years to love in my emergent learning
even that which I now call "creative collapses".

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

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