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Jul. 7th, 2014

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.1, "Understanding Ourselves"

i) "... We always know tacitly that we are holding our explicit knowledge to be true", being able to accept this allows us to avoid the vain pursuit of reflecting upon our own reflections. (p.12)

ii) The personal contribution to knowledge predominates at the lowest levels of knowing and in the lofitiest achievements of human intelligence. (p.13)

iii) Contrasting articulate to inarticulate intelligence via metaphor of maps: mental maps can only be tested in action and accepted a-critically, explicit maps may lead us astray, but can be subjected to critical examination (p.15-17)

iv) Map metaphor extened to act of discovery (producing knowledge) (p.18)

v) "Genius seems to consist in the power of applying the originality of youth to the experience of maturity." (p.19)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.2, "Understanding Ourselves"

vi) Understanding defined as comprehending or making sense of experience by tacitly reorganizing it so as to gain intellectual control over it. (p.19-20); cf. episteme

vii) Modern scruples v. "understanding": "Natural science has been taught to regard itself as a mere description of experience: a description which can be said to explain the facts of nature only in so far as it represents individual events as instances of general features. [Rival explainations are explained-away as competeing descriptions of varying convenience] *Modern science disclaims any intention of understanding the hidden nature of things; its philosophy condemns any such endeavour as vague, misleading, and altogether unscientific." (p.20)

viii) Explicit representations (i.e maps, words, and formulae) may be formulated so as to induce understanding, but they cannot be said to communicate an understanding of themselves. (p.21)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.3, "Understanding Ourselves"

ix) Comprehension of a statement requires a tacit contribution of one's own, by virtue of which comprehension, he can be said to acquire knowledge when he is presented with the statement. (p.22)

x) Understanding: function expanded into that of knowing what we intend, what we mean, or what we do. (p.22)

xi) The accumulation, pondering, and reconsideration of subject-matters in terms of the symbols designating them is a tacit, a-critical process. (p.25)

xii) Satisfaction, intellectual: "We seek to clarify, verify or lend precision to something said or experienced. We move from a position that is felt to be problematic to another position which we find more satisfying. And this is hoe we eventually come to hold a piece of knowledge to be true." (p.26)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.6, "Understanding Ourselves"

xix) Someone's mind can only be known comprehensively, by dwelling within the unspecifiable particulars of its external manifestations; (i.e. words, gestrures, expressions, actions, etc.) (p.33); the other's external manifestions of her mind are its own dwelling place.

xx) The shaping of knowledge is spurred by our craving for understanding and intellectual passion for closer contact with reality, and achieved by pouring ourselves into new forms of existence. (p.34)

xxi) Man is apprenticed and educated in his universe of feelings (evoked by/through) his articulate heritage (p.34)

xxii) Inventions as possibility waiting to be discovered (p.35)

xxiii) The sense of a pre-existent task by the seeker/discoverer makes the shaping of knowledge a responsible act, free from subjective fancy (p.36); the opportunity is one's calling.

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.7, "Understanding Ourselves"

xxiv) On the fact-value distinction: "our powers of understanding control equally both these domains." (p.37)

xxv) Beauty is the general term for the source of our intellectual joys, and is most often invoked by scientists and engineers. (p.37)

xxvi) Mathematics have no other purpose than for enjoyment as a dwelling place of our understanding. Whomever does not love and admire math for its own internal splendours knows nothing about it. (p.38-39)

xxvii) "Mathematics is conceptual music - music is sensuous mathematics" (p.39); cf. "The Republic", Pythagoras.

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.8, "The Calling of Man"

i) Re. the study of man acting responsibly: "... here we have to understand the actions relating primarily to moral, possibly civic, or even religious obligations, and in doing so we exercise a judgement which is based in its turn on our own moral, civic, or religious beliefs." (p.42)

ii) Further examples of particulars which are unspecifiable because the are unknown: familiar writing or voice, a person's gait, a well-cooked omlette, or the pathological symptoms of a disease. (p.45)

iii) "... Our awarenes of a pattern can be dissolved by concentrating our attention on its seperate details in turn. Dismemberment of a comprehensive entity produces incomprehension of it and in this sense the entity is logically unspecifiable in terms of its particulars." (p.45)

iv) Thesis of next section: that the two levels of personal knowledge - comprehensive entity and particulars - represent two distinct logical levels, and a peculiar logical relationship like that of subsidiary and focal awareness. (p.46)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.9, "The Calling of Man"

v) Physics and chemistry, and engineering contend with subject-matters on different logical levels. (p.47)

vi) A Laplacean mind could not comprehend a machine, nor the meaning of any particular in terms of a coherent entity. (p.49)

vii) Physiology, for instance, can only be helped by physio-chemical investigation in the determination of the causes of breakdowns, which can only be known as such in light of an anterior knowledge of operational principles. (p.54)

viii) "An observation of particulars which dissolves such a comprehension would be justified, and justified only, if it proved that the process of comprehension was deceptive and the comprehended entities non-existent." (p.55)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.10, "The Calling of Man"

ix) We know of the life of appetites and perceptions of animals through our power of indwelling, even in the case of their superior sentience (e.g. of homing pigeons) by generalizing from our own experience. (p.58)

x) The possibility of error emerges for the first time with the emergence of sentience. (p.58)

xi) "... Comprehension invariably appreciates the coherence of that which it comprehends. This lends distinctive values to things belonging to levels above that of natural inanimate objects." (p.59)

xii) "Animals may be lovable, but man alone can command respect, and in this sense we humans are at the top of creation. To deny this would be to repudiate the unique responsibilities which this position entatils." (p.59)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.11, "The Calling of Man"

xiii) "We come into existence mentally, by adding to our bodily equipment an articulate framework and using it for understanding experience. Human thought grows only within language and since language can exist only within a society, all thought is rooted in society"; refers to Teillhard de Chardin and the concept of the noosphere. (p.60)

xiv) A man who has learned to respect the truth will uphold it even against the society which taught him, and even demand respect for himself, "on the grounds of his own respect for the truth... such is the equality of men in a free society." (p.61-62)

xv) Mental passions are a desire for truth, or, more generally, for things of intrinsic excellence (p.62); these passions will generally conflict with the desires of the body, so the pursuit of truth becomes an act of self-compulsion in submission to our intimations of reality, which we pursue with universal intent, "Such are the assumptoins of human responsibility and the spiritual foundations on which a free society is conceivable." (p.63)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.12, "The Calling of Man"

xvi) Survey of and critique of various sciences of man and their principles (p.64)

xvii) "The mind is a comprehensive feature of man", to which we attend focally, while subsidiarily attending from his words and gestures. (p.64)

xviii) The three flaws of Ryle's theory, and with behaviouralism (p.64)

xix) Knowledge of a comprehensive entity is a, "an understanding, an indwelling and an appreciation", and these asects of personal knowledge are closely interwoven (p.66); understanding = indwelling + appreciation, or knowledge = understanding + indwelling + appreciation.

xx) The responsibility of every major mental decision is in part a social responsibility which affects and is affected by existing structures of power and profit; see relation of higher and lower levels. (p.67-68)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.13, "The Calling of Man"

xxi) Man's calling and responsibility in the Universe (p.69-70)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.14, "Understanding History"

i) Human thought represents the highest level of reality in our experience; the true nature of a thing = its most comprehensive feature (of all the levels of reality which compose it) (p.71)

ii) Knowledge is gained through understanding (p.71)

iii) "It follows then [from (i)] that the study of man must start with an appreciation of man in the act of making responsible decisions." (p.71); striking examples of which being Alexander, Augustus, Luther, Napolean, etc.

iv) Hegel, Hada, Vico, and Collingwood on the call to study the humanities and history by other methods than those of the natural sciences (p.72)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.15, "Understanding History"

v) Contra (iv): "The position at which I have arrived in the previous two lectures denies any discontinuity between the study of nature and the study of man" (p.72); all knowledge rests on understanding, albeit at different levels and employing "ever new powers."

vi) Passion, beauty, and intimations of a harmonious order in physics (p.74); the beauty is enjoyed by dwelling in the theory and observing its confirmation by the facts.

vii) Higher life forms strive to control their environment by knowing and judging its environment; they do not adjust to it. (p.75); active, not passive.

viii) Observation of various levels of being, and logical levels (p.76).

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.16, "Understanding History"

ix) "To acknowledge the capacity for judgement and error in an animal, is to recognize in it also an interpretative framework which we may deem right or wrong from the animal's point of view, and this leads to a distinction between two kinds of mistakes...":

Ex. (1) trout snapping at bait = error based on a correct interpretation of experience;
Ex. (2) ducklings bond to a human and transfer that loyalty to humans in general = judging experience correctly according to an erroneous interpretative framework;
Ex. (3) pathological lack of judgement, i.e. resulting from major brain damage;
Ex. (4) correct judgement within a correct framework. (p.76-77)

x) Intellectual passions and breakdowns in animals (p.77)

xi) Comparing and contrasting the study of Napolean v. universal gravitation; studying actions v. recording or observing events, which raises the questions of motive and responsibility, and of praise and blame, thus requiring indwelling on a man's person and actions, and one's own personal judgement. (p.79)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.17, "Understanding History"

xii) Mention of the Revolutions and the Millenarian movements whcih preceeded the French Revolution (p.79)

xiii) "The writing of history is itself a process of history, and this seems to distingish it sharply from physics, chemistry, and biology." (p.79)

xiv) Value judgements are intrinsic in every branch of science, all of which set standards of perfection for their subject-matter and judge accordingly (i.e. crystals and other patterns in inanimate nature, health and normality in biology, intelligence and problem-solving ability, moral rightness and discernment); the standards merely layer on and become more penetrating and complex at succeeding stages or levels. (p.80)

xv) "... Every act of understanding somewhat rectifies our being, and we may well accept therefore that a conversion to a truer way of being a man will induce a better understanding of man." (p.83) cf. Republic and Jaspers' paradigmatic individuals; to an extent, the social being of man determines his consciousness, insofar as a free society affirms a stratified reality and the pursuit of those standards. Cf. Eric Voegelin's conception of the open society.

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.18, "Understanding History"

xvi) Windlebrand, and Rickert: the uniqueness of historical events v. the repetitiveness of the events of the natural sciences; factual interest dominates over theoretical in the first sphere, while vice versa in the second (p.83); cf. Polanyi's modification (p.84-85), i.e. the profundity and excitement of extremely accurae physical theories, versus the greater intrinsic interest and lesser generality of biology, versus the greater interest and uniqueness of Napolean. See notes on greater reality of that with the most potential and possibility for revelation and discovery.

xvii) "Every pebble is unique, but profoundly unique objects are rare." (p.85)

xix) Against the secession of history from the natural science, as is argued by Polanyi's theory of knowledge (p.85)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.19, "Understanding History"

xx) "... Noble actions, works of art or science, serve no material need, but demand, on the contrart, material sacrifices: they are deemed excellent in themeselves. And it is because man is capable of such sacrifice that he himself demands to be respected, and willl be respected by those who share his respect for the things which his sacrifice bears witness. We have seen that this is the spiritual foundation of freedom and of mutual respect amoung men." Here, writing history encounters the history makers. (p.86) See Plato on thumos

xxi) Now we may say that there are three sorts of human fault:

Type. (1) faults commited within an acceptable framework;
Type. (2) rational applications of an unacceptable framework;
Type. (3) pathological actions, not subject to responsibility. (p.87)

xxii) The calling of man and one's tacit commitment, responsibility acknowledged, are limited and shaped by historical circumstance. (p.87)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.20, "Understanding History"

xxiii) "... I acknowledge this commitment myself as the framework of declaring myself committed. This is, indeed, merely to accept to myself the situation which I have defined as the calling of man." (p.87); cf. similar delaration in PK

xxiv) Therefore, there are three possible historical fallacies when critiquing historical actions:

Type (1) error: Rationalist fallacy: writing history by applying our standards, eg. Voltaire, Gibbon;
Type (2) error: Relativism/historicism: judging actions purely by standards of their time and place;
Type (3) error: Determinist/materialist: judgin all actions as if determined by power and profit, and devoid of all meaning and responsibility. (p.87-89), see also n.(xxi)

xxv) "A balanced respect for man avoids all three fallacies... [seeing that] every historical person [is] necessarily dependant for his effectiveness on accepting a given cultural medium and on grasping accidental opportunities that are never free of degrading temptations." (p.89)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.21, "Understanding History"

xxvi) Man's responsibilty to standards of truth and rightness establishes him as a rational person; rational conclusions (i.e. mental actions) or [political] actions can be justified in terms of their reasons; to this extent, such rational decisions are "valid anywhere and for all times" (i.e. eternal or quasi-eternal) irrespective of where they first arose...

"It is argued therefore that by understanding such a decision the historian grasps an eternal immaterial subject that, as such, lies outside the domain of the natural sciences." (p.90); emphasis added.

xxvii) One can now also distinguish patholigical actions with their causes, from rational actions and their reasons (i.e. guidance from higher operating principles, supported and limited by lower strata of existence); history is thus not fundamentally distinct from the natural sciences (p.91); ex. of critiquing a judge's judicial decision, judging it for its good reasons or its bad causes or corruptions; see also (p.92-94)

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.22, "Understanding History"

xxviii) Now see also that "the participation of the knower in the thing he knows increases steadily as the objects of knowledge ascend to ever higher levels of existence," and higher standards of appreciation are brought to bear, until there is an equal level of existence, then even the submission to someone as an ideal (e.g. Napolean) (p.94-97)

xxix) On the cult of Napolean in Europe from Pushin to Nietzsche (p.95-96); used as an example "to remind us that this process of education [via submission to an ideal] may amount to a corruption." (p.97); cf. Plato on Homer and the cult of Achilles.

xxx) "We have now arrived once more, by extrapolating the series of studies which led from physics to historiography, at the point where our possession of knowledge is seen to consist in an act of understanding and submission." (p.99); emphasis added.

"The Study of Man" by Michael Polanyi, p.23, "Understanding History"

xxxi) The supreme importance of universities (p.99), and their "claims on society".

xxxii) Analysis of Collingwood's The Idea of History, and of his critique of Windlebrand's distinction between nomothetic and idiographic knowledge: Windlebrand did not refer to these as knowledges of different subjects in the field of reality, but only logically distinct parts of all knowledge. He also gets Rickert wrong. (p.101)

xxxiii) Dilthey --> Gestalt psychology --> Polanyi's own efforts (p.101-102)

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