Monday, June 11, 2012

"Sustained by the belief that a human type exists"

"the insights [(personal knowledge)] by which we recognize life in individual plants and animals, and distinguish their several kindsand by which we appraise them as normal or abnormal, establishing thereby the success or failure of the process by which they come into existence— . . . reveal a reality to which we have access by no other channels. . . ."

     Michael Polanyi, Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy, pt. 4, chap. 12, sec. 3 ((London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962 [1958]), 359, italics added).

     Are those who dismiss the idea that there is anything like a human nature or normality or the right use of an organ or disability (or whatever) among the critical objectivists (I would say "scientific" reductionists) against which Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy is directed?  So many signs would seem to point to this, not least those in chap. 12.  "the logical gap between our comprehension [(what we can know on the basis of the kind of contemplative personal knowlege described most fully in the chapter on commitment)] and the specification of our comprehension [(what we can say on the basis of a supposedly impersonal objectivism)] goes on deepening as we ascend the evolutionary ladder" (347), yet what we encounter among our contemporaries is "a steadily mounting distaste for certain forms of knowing and being; a growing reluctance to credit ourselves with the capacity for personal knowing, and a corresponding unwillingness to recognize the reality of the unspecifiable entities established by such knowing" alone (350, italics added), a knowing "Sustained by the belief that a human type exists" (349, under "2. Trueness to Type" in the merely morphological and later morphogenetic sense).  This despite the fact that "Normal shapesas distinct from abnormal, malformed, stunted shapeswould have to be identified by our own standards of rightness before they could be defined in mathematical [i.e. objective] terms" (358, italics original).  Etc.  Certainly, it will be interesting to see what Polanyi says in chap. 13, sec. 7, on "First causes and ultimate ends".

No comments: