Tacit Knowledge

I’ve just been learning about Michael Polanyi, a chemist who became a philosopher of science. As is often with this kind of case, he pleased neither academic philosophers nor scientists, and is now hardly mentioned. But he was a strong advocate of autonomous science, rather in the way that I advocate autonomous art, and he had a most interesting theory of “tacit knowledge,” meaning things we know but don’t have to mention. Apparently this is one reason why it is bad to export manufacturing overseas,  because in the case of an innovative product there is so much tacit knowledge shared by the designers, engineers and fabricators that it may be impossible to write a manual. The society that outsources its manufacturing, and separates designers and makers, reduces its future capacities. Something here is applicable to what goes on in an artist’s studio.

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