Volume 52, Issue 4, December 2012
Polanyi and Wittgenstein on Doubt
There is an interesting convergence between Michael Polanyi and Wittgenstein with respect to the problem of doubt. Polanyi carries out his “critique of doubt” on the basis of the distinction between explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge and examines explicit doubt and tacit doubt. On the level of explicit doubt, Polanyi debunks the paradoxical nature of the principle of universal doubt and illuminates the fiduciary character of doubt. The introduction of the tacit dimension into the discussion of the problem of human knowledge leads Polanyi to discover tacit doubt. Polanyi’s critique of doubt finds strong echoes in Wittgenstein, especially in his On Certainty. Nevertheless, there are important differences between two thinkers. Wittgenstein’s emphasis on the practical aspect of a world-picture and Polanyi’s sensitivity to tacit doubt are among the most prominent items that set them apart.