Improper Criticism LO28172

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 04/08/02

Replying to LO28153 --

Dear Organlearners,

Ray Evans Harrell <> writes:

>As one of old voice teachers used to say about
>the below:
>"....Art is about the sub-conscious processes and
>you must enjoy them or you will fail as a singer."

Greetings dear Ray,

The last sentence of your quote struck me as deeply profound.

Michael Polanyi, in both his books The Tacit Dimension and Personal
Knowledge, never even mentioned the subconscious. We might think that he
simply oblivious to psychology and the vast amounts of efforts in it to
find out what the subconscious is. Yet he often refered to other findings
in psychologogy. Thus it seems that he is rather avoiding the subconscious
for a strange reason. Is it perhaps that tacit knowing and subconscious
have much in common.

Another striking thing about Polanyi is the stress which he laid in
Personal Knowledge on the role of ART in helping a person to ARTiculate
his/her tacit knowing. For example, on p206, after having stressed that
"intelligent imitation" is no "blind parrot-like imitation", he writes:
"All arts are learned by intelligently imitating the way they are
practised by other persons in whom the learner places his confidence. To
know a langauge is an art, carried by tacit judgements and the practice of
unspecifyable skills."

I wonder what he would have said if I change only one word in this
sentence to suite my own understanding. It is the word "imitating". I
would change it into "exploring". As an example I can mention Beethoven.
He copied thousands of excerpts from hundreds of compositions meticulously
in his sketch books, yet never used one of them as such in his own
compositions. Why was he doing it? I think he was exploring their art in
the way he had to explore his own. For example, if I want to explore a
desert, it is senseless to do it by exploring a lush region.

Whether the subconscious or tacit knowing, when trying to articulate it
and then to be criticised for it is in my opinion Improper Criticism (IC).
I have learned that to guide a person how to learn authentically, such IC
is deadly to it in almost all cases. Sometimes I find a learner who is
extremely sensitive to any form of criticism. Like your "Water never
bothered a duck, neither should your audience bother you" I will then say
for this learner "try to thicken your hide into that of a hypopotamus". As
far as I know, it has the thickest hide of all animals. This advice often

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> 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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