Polanyi, Michael

Polanyi, Michael
   A Christian scientist and philosopher of science whose book Personal Knowledge developed a post-critical epistemology that has been influential within modern theology, Polanyi attacked Enlightenment conceptions of reason in science by emphasising factors such as community, personal commitment and aesthetic sense. He also stressed fallibilism in his influential definition of 'personal knowledge': 'I may hold firmly to what I believe to be true, even though I know that it might conceivably be false' (1974: 214). Moreover, Polanyi has carefully defended critical realism, thereby avoiding the antirealist concerns associated with the work of Thomas Kuhn. In The Tacit Dimension Polanyi explored the range of conceptual and sensory information that shape our cognitive life, identifying the extent to which tacit knowledge transcends our ability to articulate and conceptualise it. In Meaning, his final work, Polanyi counters scientism by arguing that science gains meaning from the wider cultural sphere of the creative imagination, including theology. In all his work Polanyi challenged the hegemonic rule of science by identifying the full range of human experience. He has had a significant impact on theologians seeking a 'post-critical' epistemology. Polanyi has also attracted attention from conservative Protestant theologians and philosophers, although he himself was most attracted to Tillich's articulation of Christian belief.
   Further reading: Gelwick 1977; Polanyi 1974 and 1983; Polanyi and Prosch 1975

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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