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Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing (Library Modern Thinkers Series) [Hardcover]

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Item description for Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing (Library Modern Thinkers Series) by Mark T. Mitchell...

The polymath Michael Polanyi first made his mark as a physical chemist, but his interests gradually shifted to economics, politics, and philosophy, in which field he would ultimately propose a revolutionary theory of knowledge that grew out of his firsthand experience with both the scientific method and political totalitarianism. In this sixth entry in ISI Books' Library of Modern Thinkers' series, Mark T. Mitchell reveals how Polanyi came to recognize that the roots of the modern political and spiritual crisis lay in an errant conception of knowledge that served to foreclose any possibility of making meaningful statements about truth, goodness, or beauty. Polanyi's theory of knowledge as ineluctably personal but also grounded in reality is not merely of historical interest, writes Mitchell, for it proposes an attractive alternative for anyone who would reject both the hubris of modern rationalism and the ultimately nihilistic implications of academic postmodernism.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   195
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.5"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Sep 15, 2006
Publisher   Intercollegiate Studies Institute
ISBN  1932236902  
ISBN13  9781932236903  

Availability  0 units.

More About Mark T. Mitchell

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Mark T. Mitchell is the author of the intellectual biography Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing and the forthcoming book The Politics of Gratitude: Scale, Place, and Community in a Global Age. A cofounder of the webzine Front Porch Republic, he directs the political theory program at Patrick Henry College. He lives in West Virginia.

Nathan Schlueter is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Hillsdale College in Michigan. He is the author of One Dream or Two? Justice in America and in the Thought of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Utopian Fiction: Recovering the Political Science of the Imagination (forthcoming). His writings have appeared in First Things, Communio, Touchstone, and Logos.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Epistemology
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Political

Reviews - What do customers think about Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing (Library Modern Thinkers Series)?

Valiant attempts at resolving the dilemma of scientism  Jan 23, 2008
The author writes ably about Polanyi's thinking regarding the dilemma of the "modern/postmodern conundrum" (p.165), the alternative between "modern" insistence on scientific verification of claims of truth, and "postmodern" skepticism about any objective truth at all. The first case disregards morality, beauty, and other "intangibles" as not susceptible to truth-values, and the second case lays claim only to "tangibles" dependent on preferences of the moment rather than on lasting truths.

Interestingly, Polanyi considers intangibles more real than tangibles, but fails to justify this view, as he returns to reliance on "faith", in more than just the religious sense. He reverts to advocating dependence on tradition and authority (p.63), as well as on certain "tacit knowing" (p.70).

This project, although I agree with him that scientism and the related loss of more fundamental and transcendent values warrant criticism, unfortunately offers no solid basis for its proposals. Strangely, Polanyi objects to Descartes (p.157) as a source of the problem, while other recent thinkers accuse Descartes of the opposite, of denying the supremacy of science by his dualism of mind and matter. Mind, or consciousness, could indeed have been a better point of departure for Polanyi.

The book's author speaks of him (p.168) as reintroducing "the personal participation of the knower into the process of knowing". The knower is, through consciousness of the known, in fact not only a participant, but the determiner of the known, of reality. Therefore consciousness, with its totality of apprehensions of beauty, morality, delight or displeasure, etc., takes precedence over its particular perceptions like those of the natural world. One can accordingly ascertain truths concerning these inner experiences as one can concerning experiences of nature, an outstanding example given by mathematical logic, and it is not necessary to have recourse to vague and unsupported persuasions.
Probably the best available summary of Polanyi's writings.  Dec 12, 2007
Until now, Drusilla Scott's "Everyman Revived" has for many been the most useful primer on Michael Polanyi's deep, rich and complex philosophical writings. Scott's book remains excellent, but Mark Mitchell's exploration of Polanyi's epistemology is more accessible and better organized.

Mitchell's book is useful to anyone interested in Polanyi. It serves as a very capable introduction to the ideas; anyone reading Polanyi for the first time will benefit greatly from having Mitchell's book close at hand. Likewise, scholars who have been wrestling with the nuances of tacit knowing will appreciate Mitchell's organization and his thorough coverage of the development of ideas in Polanyi's works.

Mitchell offers exceptionally clear explanations of very complicated ideas, linking themes from among Polanyi's many works with helpful citations. He also draws connections among Polanyi and other writers who considered similar challenges, some of whom preceded and influenced Polanyi, and some who drew and expanded on Polanyi's ideas.

I've already given this book as a gift three times, and surely will again. For anyone interested in the importance of tradition and liberty to the advancement of knowledge, this book is a delight.

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