Michael Polanyi's theory of tacit knowledge : towards a reappraisal of rationality, science and methodology.
The progress of science depends partly, upon the acceptance of indeterminate tacit
premisses about the nature of science and the object of science. These premisses are tacit
(i) they extend to what is beyond the limitations of present data, -not the empirical or the
imaginative- and therefore involve heuristic anticipations.
(ii) they also involve personal and interpersonal mechanisms such as the personal
presuppositions and commitments of the scientist operating within a given community.
This community confers values on scientific work in the form of publications, research
grants, professional positions, etc.. This transcends the objective subjective dichotomy since
the scientist submits to requirements acknowledged by himself with universal intent, that is
the scientist's responsibility to pursue his research and confer his judgements as his vision of
reality would have him hold as universally necessary.
(iii)their acceptance is largely a-critical - they are functional interpretative systems rather than
static objects. Although when they are the object of study, they are facts, they are not the
fact since they play a vectorial role in establishing facts. They make factuaiity possible.
There is a strong case for tacit knowledge. Therefore, Polanyi submits, we should question a
concept of scientific objectivity which rests solely upon logical and empirical foundations.
Even though numerous mathematics and technical procedures can be employed, the
objective value of a scientific theory cannot be wholly formally assessed.
Polanyi's theory, in differentiating rationality from formal inference, shows the way towards
a non-normative but non-subjectivist epistemology of science beyond the
accounts of the practice of science of Kuhn, Lakatos and Laudan.