Though largely ignored, the work of research chemist-turned-philosopher Michael Polanyi (1891-1976) offers rich insight into the methods of science, the role of belief in all human knowing, and the important connections between knowledge and responsibility. Tacit Knowing, Truthful Knowing explores Michael Polanyi's criticisms of both objectivism and subjectivism, and his attempts to develop a more truthful understanding of how we know the world. His ideas are based on the belief that all knowledge is either tacit (silent and unspoken) or rooted in tacit knowledge.
This two and one-half hour program features interviews with leading interpreters of Polanyi's thought, including Marjorie Grene, Richard Gelwick, Thomas Torrance, and Martin Moleski. Interviews with Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dudley Herschbach, educator Steven Garber, and master violin makers Peter and Wendy Moes, along with readings from Michael Polanyi's books and correspondence, further illuminate his ideas. On MP3 CD, or MP3 download.
Here’s a multiple choice quiz for you. Four questions with only one correct answer for each―and no fair skipping to the end of this review to find the answers.
1. The Christian or biblical understanding of the relationship between faith and reason is best summarized as:
a) Reason vs. faith (reason and faith are opposed, reason must be predominant and must test all faith claims).
b) Faith vs. reason (faith and reason are opposed, and since rationality leads to naturalism, we simply accept such things as God and meaning by faith).
c) Faith above reason (reason and science are mere tools which when properly used provide proof for what is then believed by faith).
d) Faith seeking understanding (one believes in order to understand, so that reason is always preceded by faith, and true faith is always pursuing understanding).
2. This entire topic of epistemology (the theory of knowledge, or how we can know anything at all) is:
a) extraordinarily boring to normal people, and is best left to intellectuals who have no social life.
b) actually both interesting, if it’s presented creatively, and very practical― in the sense that it makes a profound difference in how we understand the Bible, how we share our faith, how we pursue our calling, and how we seek to be faithful as Christians in a postmodern culture.
3. The best thing I can do at this point is:
a) drop this and read something else.
b) order a copy of Tacit Knowing Truthful Knowing: The Life and Thought of Michael Polanyi from Mars Hills Audio.
Well-written and professionally produced, Tacit Knowing Truthful Knowing is a creative introduction to a thinker who is not well known among Christians, but who should be. Michael Polanyi (1891- 1976) was a scientist who for many years did groundbreaking work in chemistry.As a scientist, however, he was troubled by the description of science that the modern world had adopted. The modernist notion was that the scientist was an objective and disinterested observer, simply following the facts wherever they led, so that reason following the scientific method would reveal the nature of reality and could test every truth claim. Polanyi knew as a working scientist that this idea was false. The best scientists are not disinterested, but passionate. Many discoveries come not by following the facts in a laboratory, but as a burst of insight. And before the scientist begins his work, he assumes certain things are true, meaning that faith always precedes reason. So, after a long and fruitful career in chemistry, Polanyi turned his attention to philosophy.
Polanyi was known as someone who could explain complex ideas simply. As a chemist, for example, he would occasionally take the podium after a scientist gave a seminar that few could comprehend and in a few sentences explain what had been presented. Tacit Knowing Truthful Knowing does the same, taking what might seem to be a rather esoteric and complex set of ideas and making them
not only understandable, but compelling.
The tapes begin with the story of Polanyi’s life, involving, among other things, his escape as a Hungarian Jew from Berlin where he was teaching as Hitler came to power. His thinking is summarized and illustrated in ways that make it both plausible and practical. Finally, a number of people from a variety of vocations (including master violinmakers Wendy and Peter Moes, educator Steven Garber, and Nobel prize winning chemist Dudley Herschbach) are interviewed to show how his ideas apply to everyday life.
If you are an aerobics instructor, a postdoctoral fellow doing research, a farmer, an elementary school teacher, or on the staff of some ministry, Tacit Knowing Truthful Knowing will be helpful. It’s for everyone who cares about truth, about knowing that truth, about science, and about how faith and reason relate. We recommend Tacit Knowing Truthful Knowing to you. ■~Denis D. Haack