The Form of Knowledge LO25961

From: Richard Karash (
Date: 01/22/01

Replying to LO25950 --

I and my organizational learning colleagues understand Polanyi a little
bit differently.

At writes in symbolic notation

> we can know > we can tell

and Fred simplifies this to

> know > tell ...(i.e. "know" more than "can tell")

We understand "know" a little bit differently... We think it's "know how"
and understand Polanyi's statement as "We have more 'know how' than we can
ever express." Or, "We can do much more than we can explain how to do."

Then the symbolic notation will be:

   What we know how to do > what we can articulate ...or...

   Know how > can tell

Fred goes on to write:
> It has occurred to me that "know" and "tell" suggest very different things
> about the "form of knowledge." When I articulate my knowledge (i.e., tell
> what I know), I use language and, on my part at least, diagrams as well.
> The products or artifacts of my telling what I know are things like the
> statements I make in conversations (along with accompanying gestures)...

I suggest we express "know how" not in words but in action. What we can
express in words may help another person acquire "know how" but it's a
different thing from the "know how" itself. It may be a map... not the

Finally, I'll state my position on one of the big questions, "Is tacit
knowledge that which hasn't been articulated? ..or knowledge that can
never be articulated?"

I find it helpful to think of tacit knowlege personally and time
dependent. My present tacit knowledge is the "know how" I cannot
articulate right now. With effort, I can understand how I do things and
articulate explicit knowledge that a) helps me understand what I do, and
b) may be useful to another person in acquiring "know how."

I agree with Polanyi:
 (his words) We know more than we can ever tell.
 (my words) We have more 'know how' than we can ever express.

  -=- Rick

p.s. My interpretation of Polanyi makes sense to me, but is it Polanyi's
intended meaning? I'm not sure... I am quite sure he was aware from Dewey,
Peirce and others the possible meaning of "know" as "know how".

p.p.s. Polanyi's _Personal Knowledge_ is a great favorite of mine! At, I'm
looking forward to your report from that one!


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