Volume 46, Issue 3, October 2020
Gus Breytspraak, Phil Mullins
Polanyi and the Study Group for the Unity of Knowledge
The Ford Foundation funded not only the important 1965 and 1966 Bowdoin College interdisciplinary conferences of the Study Group on Foundations of Cultural Unity (SGFCU), but also the many later conferences from 1967-1972 of the SGFCU successor group, the Study Group for the Unity of Knowledge (SGUK). Michael Polanyi chaired the group making these grant proposals and his cultural criticisms and his constructive post-critical philosophical ideas underlay both the SGFCU and the early SGUK programs which Ford generously supported. There is interesting Ford Foundation archival material about these grants and their programs as well as many relevant letters in the Michael Polanyi Papers. This essay focuses on Polanyi’s limited role in three SGUK meetings and its decisive importance in shaping late Polanyi publications. It also traces the declining Polanyi’s aspiration to work with Marjorie Grene to convene a never realized European SGUK conference (in the early seventies) that used his ideas to illumine the destruction of Europe in the twentieth century.