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Tradition and Discovery: The Polanyi Society Periodical

Volume 29, Issue 2, 2002/2003

Dale Cannon
Pages 26-43

Construing Polanyi’s Tacit Knowing as Knowing by Acquaintance Rather than Knowing by Representation
Some Implications

This essay proposes that Polanyi’s tacit knowing – specifically his conception of tacit knowing as cognitive contact with reality – should be construed as fundamentally a knowing by acquaintance – a relational knowing of reality, rather than merely the underlying subsidiary component of explicit representational knowledge. Thus construed, Polanyi’s theory that tacit knowing is foundational to all human knowing is more radical than is often supposed, for it challenges the priority status of explicit representational knowledge relative to tacit acquaintance knowledge, which has been the dominant paradigm for most of the Western epistemological tradition.

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