A chemist and member of a family renowned for its learning in several disciplines, Michael Polanyi experienced first-hand the horrors of totalitarian government and worldwide war. Consequently there is a singular weight to Polanyi's challenge to advocates of centrally planned scientific inquiry or the centrally planned implementation of scientific discovery. He argued that organizations—or governments—based solely on the methods of science threaten to foreclose a full human knowledge of the mysteries of existence and therefore pose a direct threat not only to academic freedom but to social and political liberty. The very triumphs of science in the modern era, Polanyi believed, at least affect and sometimes threaten liberty: "Our discovery and acceptance of scientific knowledge is a commitment to certain beliefs which we hold, but which others may refuse to share." This fateful interrelationship between science and liberty in our time is given supreme and elegant reflection in The Logic of Liberty.
“Polanyi's philosophy of science is rooted in his own experiences as a medical doctor, a physical chemist, and an economist. He was convinced that "all knowledge is tacit or rooted in tacit knowledge." This means that all knowing is personal--objectivity is the accomplishment of subjects who are willing to dedicate themselves to making contact with reality. From this perspective, the physical sciences depend on a metaphysical vision that cannot be put wholly into words nor proven in detail. Science, like religion, is an act of personal commitment that gives meaning to the whole of life.”
Michael Polanyi (1891-1976) was one of the great figures of European intellectual life in the 20th century. A highly acclaimed physical chemist in the first period of his career who became a celebrated philosopher after World War II, Polanyi taught in Germany, England, and the United States and associated with many of the leading intellects of his time. His biography has remained unwritten partly because his many and scattered interests in a wide variety of fields, including six subfields of physical chemistry, epistemology, economics, patent law, social and political theory, aesthetics, and theology.
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