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Michael Polanyi's theory of tacit knowledge: An epistemology of skill in science.

Kiyimba, Kizito (2009) Michael Polanyi's theory of tacit knowledge: An epistemology of skill in science. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

How can we claim to know and even tenaciously hold in science what we might possibly doubt. Standard methodologies of science have not answered this question persuasively. They either propose an answer that misrepresents science or they propose an irrational approach to science. The reason for these two extreme positions is that the accounts of science in these methodologies are based on a false ideal of objectivism - an assumption that the success of science as a branch of human knowledge is based on it being objective in the sense of being impersonal. Michael Polanyi propounds a theory of tacit knowledge, and I claim that this theory provides the best answer to the above question in that it represents scientific activity accurately and rationally. Polanyi rebuttals the false ideal of objectivism/impersonalism in scientific knowledge with a richer account of actual scientific practice. I show that he restores heuristics, and accounts for the role of skill without thereby succumbing to psychologism/subjectivism. I explore Collins and Pinch's claim that controversy is central to scientific progress, and critically examine Mwamba's book length study of Polanyi. I tackle the objections made by the Popperians (notably Alan Musgrave) to Polanyi's theory and the alternative methodology provided by Imre Lakatos/Elie Zahar. I argue that Popperianistic methodologies present incomplete accounts of science. Instead, understanding the nature and functions of tacit knowledge provides a richer epistemology of science. Further, the theory provides grounds for re-tackling the perennial problem of skepticism. In the theory, every act of knowledge is a skilful act and whenever we can point out that we know, we affirm our ways of knowing. Thus removed from the false ideal of objectivism, we are closer to resolving skepticism. The thesis is also an introduction to the still nascent philosophy of Michael Polanyi to analytic philosophy. It is akin to but not identical with Thomas Kuhn's philosophy of science.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy of Science, Epistemology
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/2350

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