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Tradition and Discovery: The Polanyi Society Periodical

Volume 47, Issue 2, July 2021

Alessio Tartaro
Pages 23-33

The Roots of Tacit Knowledge: Intuitive and Personal Judgment in Polanyi’s Early Writings (1939-1946)

Polanyi says that the concept of tacit knowledge is “necessarily fraught with the roots that it embodies” (TD, xviii). This paper demonstrates that these roots can be seen in Polanyi’s early writings between 1939 and 1946. In particular, the concepts of “intuitive judgment” and “personal judgment” have some peculiar features that flow subsequently into the idea of tacit knowledge. In this regard, they can be considered ancestors of Polanyi’s best-known concept. In the present paper, I propose a historical reconstruction of the two concepts. In particular, I focus on the problems from which they stem, namely Polanyi’s criticism of research planning and his account on the functioning of science and its institutional and social arrangement. Besides this historical reconstruction, I draw a comparison between the concept of tacit knowledge and its early predecessors.

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