Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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Beyond its application to economics, social theory, and management theory, he offers serious challenges to the popular representational theories of modernity. Our connection with reality is preserved while acknowledging our fallibility, but through a rational criticism of doubt. We contact reality through our indwelling of the media through which we contact reality. The media of our senses, use of tools, and construction of theory are affirmed. Our access to reality requires a commitment on our part; the legitimate role of subjectivity in achieving access to reality is affirmed rather than placed under the rug in the way they are in popular conceptions of science. Polanyi brings much insight here. In many ways his insights about the sociology of science in this regard previewed what Thomas Kuhn would later write. The advantage of Polanyi is that his interpretation of these phenomena are less skeptical on account of the rest of the epistemology that he works out.
Truly an outstanding work. Worth reading 3-4 times.
Secondly, after reading any given section, be it one page long or twenty, write down a couple sentences of takeaway knowledge. Obviously, you can look to Polanyi's italicized sentences for guidance towards the most noteworthy ideas. But search particularly for those keywords that strike you in ways you might not expect. Find the dictional centres around which the rest of the words revolve. In this way you will set yourself up for a third instruction: you are learning a new language.
Consider reading Personal Knowledge less like a philosophy lecture and more like a storybook in a foreign language. Truly, the text demands immersion into the title itself, this new and unassuming paradox coined by Polanyi--this "personal knowledge"--and immersion into all the unexpected stories of which the author draws upon to make his point. Albeit, the logical flow of Polanyi's argument is not contingent upon all of these pieces. Polanyi himself acknowledges time and time again how many parts are "digressions," "beside the point," or "merely interesting." After struggling through chapter five, you may admittedly feel betrayed by the beginning of six: "the previous chapter was a digression" (132). (Not to tempt you with skipping chapter five--don't). I would go so far as to say that, from the standpoint of logician's progress, four-fifths of the text is non-essential material.
That being said, the four-fifths may actually be quite essential in the sense of immersion. Within the four-fifths are surprising stories of all kinds: speech and mathematics, evolution and biology, crystallography and communications and probability, reason, faith, doubt, God, etc. Each of the different narratives pushes and prods our understanding of personal knowledge, and not just that, each narrative expands the meanings of a whole arsenal of words employed by Polanyi to make his point. Of course, describing this expansion is difficult at best, and it really can only be experienced--a gestalt sensation like much of what Polanyi describes. So allow me one final direction for the novice reading.
Do not skip the preface; read it slowly; write a paragraph about what it means to you and proceed with the rest of the book. Then, when you have finished going through every narrative, every dead-end, and every digression, go back to the preface. Read it again slowly and appreciate your new context. In hindsight, the first reading will feel shallow and small, even if it felt fine at the time. Acknowledge how the words are all the same as before, yet they all have new functions and new meanings with a new background. The second preface reading will have all the colours and currents of the deep river in which you submerged yourself for four hundred pages. We may call the shift of colour our second simplicity.