1966 TheTacitDimension

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"I shall reconsider human knowledge by starting from the fact that we can know more than we can tell," writes Michael Polanyi, whose work paved the way for the likes of Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper. The Tacit Dimension argues that tacit knowledge - tradition, inherited practices, implied values, and prejudgments - is a crucial part of scientific knowledge. Back in print for a new generation of students and scholars, this volume challenges the assumption that skepticism, rather than established belief, lies at the heart of scientific discovery.


Another variant of this phenomenon was demonstrated by Eriksen and Kuethe in 1958.[1] They exposed a person to a show whenever he happened to utter associations to certain "shock words." Presently, the person learned to forestall the shock by avoiding the utternace of such associations, but, on questining it appeared that he did not know he was doing this. Here the subject got to know a practical operation, but could not tell how he worked it. This kind of subception has the structure of a skill, for a skill combines elementary muscular acts which are not identifiable, according to relations that we cannot define.

These experiments show most clearly what is meant by saying that one can know more than we can tell. This is prevented here by the division of roles between the subject and the observer. The experimenter observes that another person has a certain knowledge that he cannot tell, and so no one speaks of a knowledge he himself has and cannot tell.



  1. (C. W. Eriksen, and J. L. Kuethe. (1956). “Avoidance Conditionoing of Verbal Behavior Without Awareness."



 AuthorvolumeDate ValuetitletypejournaltitleUrldoinoteyear
1966 TheTacitDimensionMichael PolanyiThe Tacit Dimension1966