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Tradition and Discovery: The Polanyi Society Periodical

Volume 25, Issue 1, 1998/1999

Stephen Turner
Pages 12-20
DOI: 10.5840/traddisc1998/19992515

Polanyian in Spirit
A Reply to Gulick

Walter Gulick criticizes The Social Theory of Practices for its non-Polanyian views of the problem of the objective character of tacit knowledge, its insistence that there should be plausible causal mechanisms that correspond to claims about tacit knowledge and its “social” transmission, and its denial of the social, telic character of practices. In this reply it is asserted that the demand for causally plausible mechanisms is not scientistic or for that matter non-Polanyian, that the book has a view of objectivity that parallels Polanyi’s own, and that the idea of telic practices is subject to the same problems over mechanism as non-telic ones, with the additional problem that telic concepts need supra-individual feedback mechanisms, of which no plausible examples exist. In each case, the non-social or personal explanations of the phenomenon of “practice” are better than the “social” ones. The discussion concludes by posing the challenge of connectionism to Polanyi, as well as the opportunity it presents.

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