The Form of Knowledge LO25984

From: Artur F. Silva (
Date: 01/25/01

Replying to LO25961

At 11:58 22-01-2001 -0500, Richard Karash wrote:

>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

>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.

Hello Rick:

You agree with Polanyi, but I am sure that he would not agree with you in
transforming "know > tell" in "Know-how > tell" ;-)

In fact, as At said, Polanyi (Tacit Dimension) speaks of "know what" and
"know how" and then says "I shall always speak of "knowing" to cover both
practical and theoretical knowledle" (pag. 7). But this his only to
explain the use of "knowing". Not to explain the use of "tacit". And it is
the tacit (not the knowing) that can't be told.

In the following pages, as At referred, Polanyi designs a rich picture to
explain "tacit knowing" with many examples. Only a few of this examples
refer to know how or practical knowledge. THE MAJORITY refers to
"theoretical knowledge". The most important idea that is present in all
the book is to try to prove that in EVER theorectical knowledge there is
always also "tacit knowing". Polanyi wants to combact positivism in
SCIENCE; if he was thinking only of "know how" as tacit - he would not
prove what he wanted.

Some quotations to prove that:

- "tacit knowing as applied to the understanding of man and of works of
art" (pag 17)

- tacit knowing to explain the interiorization of "tacit moral knowledge"
(pag 17)

- "to rely on a (scientific) theory for understanding it is to interiorize
it" ( to make it tacit - my words, Artur). And then he refers explicitly
to mathematics (pag 17).

"We can see now how a unblidled lucidity can destroy our understanding of
complex matters. Scrutinize closely the particulars of a comprehensive
entity and their meaning is effaced, our conception of the entity is
destroyed...Meticulous detailling may obscure beyond recall a subject like
history, literature or phylosophy" (pag 18/19)

"We are approaching here a crucial question. The declared aim of modern
science is to establish a stricty detached, objective knowledge... But
suppose tacit thought forms an indispensable part of all knowledge, then
the ideal of elliminating ALL personal elements of (scientific) knowledge
would in effect aim at the destruction of all knowledge. The ideal of
exact science would turn out to be fundamentally misleading and possibly a
source of devastating falacies. (pag 20)

[ It is imediatly after this phrase that Polanyi wrote the phrase that At
commented, with a great degree of detail and lucidity, about the process
of "formalization of ALL knowledge to the exclusivion of ANY tacit
knowledge". But please note the ALL I have capitalized in the previous
sentence. It refers to ALL personal (tacit) knowledge. So I would sugest
that the explanation of "any" is much more simpler that At believes -
Maybe Polanyi used it to avoid repeating "all" three times in close
sentences ;-) (a very common european way of dealing with repetition of
words...). Having said that, I must add that I agree with Jack and will
wait for At's LC of TacDim, because I am no long sure that Polanyi wanted
to say that "no tacit knowing can be told" or "some tacit knowoing can not
be told"]

- But I want to conclude my answer to Rick saying that next (pag 23/25)
Polanyi says that tacit knowing is needed to explain how scientists "see a
problem"; how scientists "have tacit foreknowledge of yet undiscovered
thing" (Copernicans), and how (later) other scientists accept (or not) the
new scientific theories. This is very close of what Khun says - that new
scientific theories are frequentelly NOT accepted by the defendants of the
old ones (due to "tacit reasons" or old "mental models") and new theories
to become accepted by the scientific community most often have to wait
that all the older scientists finally dye ;-)

And maybe this "scientific" atitude can give us a clue about the reason
why it is so difficult to create LOs or to change old management knowledge
and practice. After all some people even say that management is a

Best Regards



"Artur F. Silva" <>

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