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Practical Reasoning as Personal Knowing: Pedagogical Implications of Polanyi's Insights into the Development of the Moral Self

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Fall, 2008 - Vol. 37, No. 1

Fifty years after the publication of Personal Knowledge, philosophersand theologians have appropriated insights fromthe works of Michael Polanyi into their projects, but comparativelyfew ethicists have done so.1 This situation is something ofa surprise for several reasons. The first is that Polanyi's accountof personal knowledge is motivated by an intensely moral concern,that of moral inversion. This term serves as Polanyi's answerto a question that many people were asking in the post–World WarII era: "How could the destructive, totalitarian regimes of NaziGermany, fascist Italy, and the communist Soviet Union havearisen in the cultured, liberal West?" As Polanyi tells the story,moral reflection is severely damaged by epistemologies developedin the modern period in which thinkers come to judge allhuman knowledge by what they call "scientific objectivity." Theresult is that Western societies develop a deep skepticism aboutthe truth of moral standards. At the same time, however, humanbeings continue to exhibit moral passions that will find expression—even when de-coupled from belief in the truth of moralstandards. Those passions, according to Polanyi, become invertedin such a way that they end up directed toward ends thatultimately destroy, rather than sustain, a free society.2 Because ofthis moral vision at the heart of his work, one would expect moreethicists to have paid attention.

Moreover, Polanyi's epistemology promises to offer resourcesfor resolving certain ongoing problems in ethics. Informed byGestalt psychology, he specifically calls knowledge personal ortacit in order to overcome the positivistic divide between objective knowledge and subjective opinion.3 This bifurcation of knowledgefinds its parallels in contemporary debates between moraldogmatists and emotivists. The former group argues for theexistence of clear moral truths, whereas the latter see moralstatements only as expressions of subjective preferences.4 A finalreason that ethicists should pay attention to Polanyi is that heargues that all human knowing is personal in nature, and this must,of necessity, include moral knowing.5 Unfortunately, Polanyihimself never develops this point in any detail, attending insteadto religion, art, and politics—apparently leaving to later scholarsthe task of sorting out the nature of moral knowing.6

Moral knowing therefore is a logical place to begin in connectingPolanyi's work with ethics. The traditional terms for moralknowing are "practical reason" and "prudence," which have beenunderstood to consist of both intellectual virtue and moral virtue.Practical reasoning thus entails sound reasoning about the particularsneeded to attain the good life in community with otherson the part of someone whose passions are appropriately orderedtoward what is truly good. This virtue enables the agent to extendknowledge from what is known to what is novel and to actaccordingly. Moreover, proficiency in practical reasoning istaken to be synonymous with being virtuous, so that the developmentof practical reasoning can be assumed to be synonymouswith the formation of the moral or virtuous self.7

Albert Jonsen and Stephen Toulmin have spearheaded anattempt to recover and rehabilitate practical reason as the modelfor moral knowing in contemporary ethics, in part because ofwhat they perceive to be its usefulness in dealing with theintractable character of moral debate in contemporary society.8They contrast practical reasoning with theoretical reasoning,which takes geometry as its model and works by applying universalstarting points to the present situation in order to arrive atconclusions that are necessarily and universally true (AC 24-36).In contrast, practical reasoning begins with presumptions establishedby previous cases that become paradigms for moral reflection.New cases, when they arise, are compared to these paradigms; sometimes they may connect in a straightforward manner,at other times their connections may be ambiguous, marginal, oreven so radically different as to call established presumptions intoquestion (AC 323). In order to explain more concretely what theymean by practical reasoning, Jonsen and Toulmin use clinicalmedicine as a paradigm. If a doctor is to cure the patient's malady,the doctor must connect her knowledge of medicine with theparticulars of a patient's symptoms. The doctor makes presumptionsand treats the patient on the basis of on those presumptions,barring exceptional circumstances, in which case the presumptivetreatment would be changed to something else. There is obviouslya certain degree of give and take in this process that Jonsen andToulmin describe as "a matter of personal judgment" and "patternrecognition" (AC 36–40). It is here that a connection betweenPolanyi and these two thinkers becomes explicit, for Polanyi oftencompares personal knowing to the making of clinical judgments."Medicine offers readily an illustration of what I have in mindhere," says Polanyi, for "only clinical practice can teach [a medicalstudent] to integrate the clues observed on an individual patientto form a correct diagnosis of his illness . . . ."9

In this paper, I intend to demonstrate that Polanyi's insightsinto features of personal knowledge and its formation can help usbetter understand the nature of practical reasoning. I will do soin two steps, the first of which is to recount Polanyi's descriptionof tacit knowing and its formation. Then, I will test these insightsby suggesting what they mean for understanding practical reasoningand its formation, in part by reflecting on using case studiesto teach ethics.

The Nature and Development of Tacit Knowing
The first feature of tacit knowing is that it is, according to Polanyi,a matter of appraisal or perception; one might also call it a matterof discernment. In tacit knowing, the perceiver actively andpassionately integrates clues from the environment in order todiscover a meaningful whole. Polanyi often explains this way ofknowing by means of everyday, non-controversial examples, suchas that of viewing stereoscopic pictures. In viewing such pictures,we simultaneously look at two photographs of the same scenetaken from two points only a few inches apart. The result is thatwe perceive the scene in a richer way than if we view only one ofthe photographs. We achieve this richer perspective by treatingthe disparities between the two perspectives as clues that we thenintegrate into a larger whole (KB, 211–212).

A second feature of tacit knowing is its from-to structure.According to Polanyi, we attend from one or more things thatremain outside of our focal awareness to the something elsewhose meaning we are trying to discern. To continue with theexample of viewing stereoscopic pictures, we attend from ourvisually related neuro-physiological processes, as well as the twoseparate pictures and associated machinery to the scene containedin the pictures. We focus our awareness on the stereoimagebut are only subsidiarily aware of the two separate pictures.This structure becomes most transparent in those times when weare forced to shift our attention to that with which are attendingto the "something else." As Polanyi notes frequently, "Repeat aword several times, attending carefully to the motion of yourtongue and lips, and to the sound you make, and soon the word willsound hollow and eventually lose its meaning. By concentratingattention on his fingers, a pianist can temporarily paralyze hismovement" (TD, 18). In short, all the physiological mechanisms,material props, and conceptual apparatuses serve as tools forfinding the meaning of the separate pictures, a meaning thatemerges from the process (KB, 212).

This notion of tools points to the process of indwelling, thethird feature of tacit knowing, one implied by the "from" side ofthe "from-to" structure of tacit knowing. Polanyi perhaps bestdefines what he means by indwelling when he says, "We may besaid to interiorize these things or to pour ourselves into them" (KB,183, emphasis his). To what things does he refer? He refers tothose things upon which we rely for the sake of learning about/discovering something else. On Polanyi's account our knowingrelies on our indwelling of many things: our body, tools thatextend our bodies (whether they are simple tools like a stick usedto probe a hole or complex telescopes used to scan the skies),language, and culture—even moral teachings (KB 134, 148–149,and 183).10 Moreover, if we are to make sense of the actions ofother people, Polanyi says that we must enter into their situationand see things from their point of view (M, 44). Tacit knowingtherefore also seems to require the capacity of empathy.

A fourth feature of tacit knowing is that the process ofintegration, of sense-making, is a fluid process, one not governedby rules.11 One of Polanyi's favorite illustrations of this feature oftacit knowing is that of wearing inverting spectacles, glasses thatmake one perceive the world upside-down. One eventually learnsto compensate for the topsy-turvy visual cues and to negotiate theworld again, but one does not learn to do this by following explicitrules such as, "remember that what you perceive to be below youis actually above you." In this situation, Polanyi finds such rulesuseless on two counts:

First, they do not tell us that we have to re-integrate our senses,on the contrary they confirm their normal integration and hindertheir re-integration; second, even if some rule did tell us what wehave to do, this would be useless, since we cannot directly controlthe integration of our senses. (>KB, 199)

Instead, what happens is that, with time and effort, the persondevelops a new integration of visual clues, muscular cues, and asense of balance in which the normal terms of right-side up orupside down no longer make sense (KB, 198–199). More generally,Polanyi explains the inability of setting forth rules to guidethe process as self-defeating because we would end up with aninfinite regress of rules for applying other rules (M, 61).

Presupposed by Polanyi's account of tacit knowing is theexistence of a reality, even if our knowledge of that reality is onlypartial and subject to revision. As he says, "From the very start,the inquiry assumes, and must assume, that there is somethingthere to be discovered" (KB, 172). Polanyi's notion of what is realis anything but straightforward, however. He suggests that realityis marked by "an unlimited range of unsuspected implications"(KB, 172), which means that what is real promises to discloseitself in ever new and unpredicted ways. Thus he argues that"minds and problems possess a deeper reality than cobblestones,although cobblestones are admittedly more real in the sense oftangible" (TD, 32–33, emphasis his).12 Because reality cannot befully known, we cannot claim that our knowledge is universal inthe sense of something true for all places and times. That does notmean, however, that our knowledge is mere whim or preference.According to Polanyi to claim something is true is to do so withuniversal intent. By doing so, we both commit ourselves to itstruth and to the expectation that others ought to adhere to it aswell (see TD, 78 and M, 194–5).

In sum, for Polanyi, all human knowledge grows out of theknower's active and passionate integration of clues into a meaningfulwhole by means of indwelling a variety of tools. This taskcannot be accomplished by woodenly following a formula orrecipe. Nevertheless, the result should not be seen as mere whimor preference because it is both responsive to a reality that defieseasy categorization and it is articulated with universal intent.

If all human knowing shares in the structure and dynamics oftacit knowing, the question naturally arises as to how these skillsare developed. Polanyi's answer is deceptively simple to understand,although difficult to practice. For Polanyi, such skills arelearned under the tutelage of a master in a convivial communityof explorers who are committed to a tradition of liberty thatfosters a "dynamic orthodoxy." This answer suggests two dimensionsof skill acquisition, the first of which is the relationship ofstudent/apprentice to a teacher or master.

The student first learns by observing the work of the master,trying to indwell not only the patterns of action but also the"spirit" of the master, thereby developing "a feel of the master'sskill" (TD, 29–30). Polanyi uses the evocative phrase "thrustingforward our imagination" to describe this indwelling, whichamounts to developing a deep empathy with and for the master(KB, 200). By entering imaginatively into the work of the teacher,the student "picks up the rules of the art, including those which arenot explicitly known to the master himself" (PK, 53). The studentalso learns to make connections between textbooks and life byanalyzing cases. Again making the analogy between personalknowing and medical training, Polanyi argues that medical studentsmust learn to recognize symptoms in actual patients, notbooks, and that this comes by "repeatedly being given cases . . . inwhich the symptom is authoritatively known to be present, side byside with cases in which it is authoritatively known to be absent,until he has fully realized the difference between them and candemonstrate his knowledge to the satisfaction of an expert" (PK,54–55). Such learning, like adjusting to inverting spectacles, willlikely be protracted and strenuous (KB, 199).

Such learning obviously demands much from the student, notleast of which is that of the student's "intelligent cooperation"(TD, 5). The student must therefore submit to the authority of theteacher, trusting that "a teaching which appears meaningless tostart with has in fact a meaning which can be discovered by hittingon the same kind of indwelling as the teacher is practicing" (TD,61; cf. PK, 53). What keeps that submission to authority frombecoming dangerous lies in part with the nature of the communityto which student and teacher belong, a topic that takes us to thesecond dimension in which skill in tacit knowing is developed, i.e.,the communal.

For Polanyi, the scientific community serves as a paradigm ofthe virtuous community in which this skillful knowing is developed.13 This community exhibits several commitments, the first ofwhich is to scientific method as a way of knowing reality. Moreover,the community is committed to preserving the libertynecessary for scientists to coordinate their work spontaneously.To be committed to liberty does not, however, mean that there areno authority structures. Scientists share commitments to standardsof plausibility, scientific value, and originality, standardsthat are employed in decisions about appointments to position,publication, and awarding of grants. Perhaps most striking aboutthis community is the dynamic orthodoxy it fosters, one thatgrants the liberty to oppose prevailing ideas in the name of truth.Polanyi therefore notes that "the authority of scientific standardsis thus exercised for the very purpose of providing those guidedby it with independent grounds for opposing it" (KB, 55). Theinitial submission to authority is thus for the sake of becomingskillful enough later to oppose that authority on its own groundswhen the need arises.

Implications for Understanding Practical Reasoning
Practical reasoning, as we saw earlier, is the form of reasoningAristotle thought was appropriate to use when one thinks aboutwhat to do. Up to this point, I have suggested that Polanyi might beable to enrich our understanding of practical reasoning, and I havesummarized salient features of his description of personal or tacitknowing. Now it is time to articulate the view of practical reasoningthat emerges when informed by a Polanyian perspective.

First, a Polanyian account would stress that practical reasoningis a matter of perception in which one imaginatively integratesclues from the environment for the sake of arriving at a responsefitting or appropriate to the situation. A person who is skilled inpractical reasoning would therefore be someone who exhibitsfacility in making perceptive judgments about situations so as todiscern courses of action that promise to open up richer possibilitiesfor living than other options.

Doing so requires that the agent attend from or indwellseveral things. The agent needs to indwell her own moral convictions,shaped as they are by her experiences and personal history.Moreover, the agent needs to indwell her own emotional constitution.In addition, the agent needs to indwell the features of thesituation that define the limits and possibilities of a course ofaction. At the same time that the agent subsidiarily reasons fromthese things, she must also attend to that elusive course of actionthat would be appropriate under the circumstances.

Finally, the agent will be committed to the reality of moraltruth. Polanyi's perspective suggests that moral truths, despitetheir intangible character, may be one of the richest realities, tothe extent that they promise to reveal themselves over time insurprising and unexpected ways. Polanyi's perspective also suggeststhat whatever course of action one perceives as appropriatemust be one that can be advocated with universal intent.

From a Polanyian perspective, facility in practical reasoningwill be developed in an apprentice-like relationship with someonewho is a skilled practical reasoner. In that relationship, thestudent will at first seek to imitate the teacher's reasoning so as,later, to surpass the teacher's skill. One of the chief means bywhich such reasoning can be taught is by means of case studies.

At this point it is appropriate to turn to a consideration of casestudies, both to make this discussion more concrete and toanalyze the method in light of these Polanyian observations.Advocates give many reasons for why case studies can be oneparticularly useful way to teach ethics. One is that case studiespromote active learning on the part of students, in part becausethe narratives can make abstract ideas come alive. Put differently,cases can be emotionally engaging in ways that reading anddiscussion of theory are not. Moreover, the dialogical characterof case narratives can foster interpersonal relationships amongstudents, as well as between students and teachers, for casediscussion can create a community in which all participants arelearners.14 Another oft-cited advantage of case studies is theirflexibility. Case studies can serve to attain any number of objectives(to teach method, to test theory, to analyze problems, or toform critical consciousness), as well as be taught in a variety offormats, such as role playing or debate (Stivers, et al, 10). Finally,case studies allow students to gain experience obliquely by theirlearning from and identifying with the characters in a casenarrative (Stivers, et al, 290).

Case studies do not serve as a magic pedagogical bullet,however. A key factor in successful case discussions is thewillingness of readers to wrestle honestly with issues raised by thecase and to treat various perspectives with an open mind (Stivers,et al, 293, 296). Moreover, the effectiveness of case studies isquite difficult to measure. Take for example, one particular formof case study used by many medical schools, problem-basedlearning. Some studies indicate that problem-based learning is nomore effective in training medical students to diagnose conditionsaccurately than other pedagogies. The most significant factor inachieving diagnostic accuracy was the number of years of training.15 Experience, compared to pedagogy, therefore seems to bemore successful in developing clinical judgment. To the extentthat moral judgment mirrors clinical judgment, then one shouldnot expect the mere utilization of case studies to be more effectivein the development of moral judgment than it appears to havebeen in the development of clinical judgment. Still others worrythat excessive reliance on cases distorts our understanding of themoral life. Stanley Hauerwas notes that several aspects of moralexperience become hidden or neglected when ethics is treated asa matter of making the kinds of difficult decisions around whichcases are usually built. Most seriously, this "standard account" ofethics assumes that the character of the agent is superfluous to thedecision. As he puts it,

the standard account simply ignores the fact that most of theconvictions that charge us morally are like the air we breath—wenever notice them . . . because they form us not to describe theworld in certain ways and not to make certain matters subject todecision. Thus we assume that it is wrong to kill children withoutgood reason . . . These are not matters that we need to articulateor decide about; their force lies rather in their not being subjectto decision.16

Personal experience in teaching case studies bears out boththe promise and difficulty of this pedagogy. I have, off and on overa period of years, experimented with case studies in ethics classes.I have most often used them as ways to get students to applytheory and then reflect critically on where that application oftheory has taken them in light of their own religious and/or moralconvictions. Thus we spend class time discussing a particularapproach to Christian ethics, such as the feminist approach, andthen at the end of that unit discuss a case in which the insightsgleaned from the theory are used to provide advice to the centralcharacter(s) in the case. Students, sometimes singly and sometimesin groups, lead the case discussion following instructions Iprovide. Generally, I first ask students to identify (1) the relevantactors in the case, (2) the goods at stake for those actors, (3) arange of live options for action, and (4) the likely consequences,both good and bad, for each of those options. Then I have studentsput themselves in the role of our theorist-author and advise theactor from the author's perspective. Finally, I ask students toreflect on how their personal advice would differ from that of theauthor's.

In monitoring discussions and grading case analyses, I havefound that students do indeed find the cases more engaging thanthe standard fair. In addition, I have discovered, not surprisingly,that students exhibit varying levels of sophistication in theirability to connect theory with case and to reflect critically in lightof one's own convictions. However, other parts of my experiencehave left me ambivalent about using cases. For one thing, I haveoften been surprised at the difficulty that many students have inarticulating their moral convictions. Moreover, I have beendisappointed by the difficulty that many students have in diggingvery deeply into the cases, in entering into them imaginatively,whether to identify goods at stake, options for actions, or evenpotential good and bad consequences for a particular course ofaction. I have also been frustrated by a very real hesitancy amongstudents to offer advice to the main character in the case or toengage critically the advice offered by other students in the class.The dominant reason students have given to explain this hesitancyis that "everyone has to make his or her own decision" or "itdepends on what she wants to do." These comments seem toreflect a tacit awareness of the personal character of a moraldecision, but are distorted by our culture's emotivism, that is itselffueled, I suspect, by the inherent sloppiness of the process (i.e.,the relative uselessness of following rules in such a way thateveryone will arrive at the same "moral" answer). A final observationis that I have not witnessed much, if any, increase in abilitiesto perform these tasks over the course of the semester.

Understanding practical reasoning as personal knowing canhelp explain these difficulties and suggest modifications to the useof case studies. Here I focus on two of the difficulties mentionedabove. Take, for example, the difficulty that students have inarticulating their moral convictions. From a Polanyian perspective,this problem should come as no surprise because I am askingstudents to make articulate or explicit what they are indwellingtacitly. As Polanyi is fond of pointing out, the process of knowingis disrupted when one is forced to focus attention on that fromwhich one is doing the knowing. This would seem to be just as truefor moral reflection as it is for pianists or bicyclists who, whenasked to explain what they are doing, find their performancesinterrupted. That difficulty in articulating the inarticulate, as wellas the disruptive nature of doing so, may well reinforce thetendency to retreat into emotivism. Nevertheless, it needs tohappen and ways need to be found to encourage such reflectiondespite the awkwardness of the process.

Polanyian insights can also help explain the seeming lack ofprogress in practical reasoning over the course of a semester. IfPolanyi is correct that the student learns in close relationship witha mentor, then the relationship between the two must be muchcloser than is often the case in a class of even modest size, say 15–18. The formation of a moral self (where ability to reasonpractically is the main measure of moral achievement) might bestbe achieved as an independent study in which student andprofessor work through cases in a collaborative way—the professoroffering his or her insights, with the student asking probingquestions and making challenging comments along the way.17Moreover, if the dominant objective of a class is to develop moralperceptivity, it will be important to give students repeated handsonexperience with cases, not simply one case for a gradecombined with hopefully vicarious engagement with the presentationsby other students.

Michael Polanyi's work has most often been appropriated byphilosophers interested in his epistemology and theologiansinterested in the religious implications of that epistemology and/or what little he says about God and religion. The ethical promiseof his work remains largely untapped, despite the fact that hisproject was largely motivated by an analysis of the morallycorrupting nature of modern thought. Polanyi could be seen as aresource for addressing the moral equivalent of the subjective/objective split in modern epistemologies, i.e., the divide betweenwhat I have called moral dogmatists and emotivists. Moreover, ifthe process of moral knowing that we have associated withpractical reason must be treated as a form of personal knowing,then there is room for appropriation there.

This last point has provided the point of departure for thisexploratory attempt to unpack the moral implications of oneaspect of Polanyi's work. The traditional terms used for moralknowing are "practical reasoning" and "prudence." In the Classicalthinking of Aristotle and Thomas, practical reasoning is thevirtue or skill that unites moral and intellectual dimensions ofexistence because it involves reasoning soundly about how toattain the good in light of passions that are correctly orderedtoward that which is truly good. Contemporary authors Jonsenand Toulmin treat clinical judgment in medicine as a paradigmexample of practical reasoning, which offers a direct link toPolanyi in that he uses clinical medicine as a model for personalreasoning.

In treating practical reasoning as a form of personal or tacitknowing, we have seen that practical reasoning must be rooted ina conviction that there is a moral reality—a good that is notmerely subjective preference yet never fully captured in articulatethought, a reality that promises to disclose itself in the futurein unexpected ways. The agent, on the basis of that conviction,reasons with universal intent by indwelling his body, emotions,and moral convictions, all of which are shaped by his personalhistory. In addition, one must passionately and imaginativelyprobe the details of the situation—indwell them empathetically—in search of clues to the moral reality that can be integrated so asto inform an action congruent with moral reality, i.e., an actionthat promises to open up largely unforeseeable possibilities forliving in the particular, concrete confines of this situation.

From a Polanyian perspective, one would expect that the bestway to develop these skills in personal practical reasoning is bymeans of practice with case studies under the tutelage of thoseskilled in practical reasoning (or at least more skilled than thestudent). Such tutelage will require motivated students who willhave to overcome gradually the emotivism that many bring withthem. It will require intensive effort in working with individualstudents or small groups of students on a case, for students needto be prodded to articulate their convictions and to indwell theparticulars of a case. Developing personal practical knowing willalso require engagement with a significant number of cases overthe course of a semester if students are to improve in their abilitiesto discern and to act.

Paul Lewis
Mercer University


  1. The most sustained investigation of Polanyian ethics can befound in the Polanyi Society journal, Tradition & Discovery 29,no. 1 (2002–3), the entirety of which is devoted to bringingPolanyian insights to bear on ethics. Some other articles thatrelate Polanyi's thinking to ethics are: Walter E. Conn, "MichaelPolanyi: The Responsible Person," The Heythrop Journal 17, no.1 (1976): 31–49; Walter Gulick, "Virtues, Ideals, and the ConvivialCommunity: Further Steps Toward a Polanyian Ethics,"Tradition & Discovery 30, no. 3 (2003–4): 40–51; TerenceKennedy, "Epistemology and the Human Sciences: MichaelPolanyi's Contribution to the Reshaping of Moral Theology,"Tradition & Discovery 20, no. 2 (1993-1994): 11–16; Paul Nagy,"Philosophy in a Different Voice: Michael Polanyi on Liberty andLiberalism," Tradition & Discovery 22, no. 3 (1995–6): 17–27;Harry Prosch, "Polanyi's Ethics," Ethics 82 (January 1972): 91–113; and John Rothfork, "Postmodern Ethics: Richard Rorty andMichael Polanyi," Southern Humanities Review 29 (Winter 1995):15–48. Stefania Jha devotes a chapter to the topic in her ReconsideringMichael Polanyi's Philosophy (Pittsburgh: University ofPittsburgh Press, 2002). While I do not claim that this list of worksrelating Polanyi to ethics is exhaustive, the contrast with thenumber of philosophically or theologically-oriented articles remainsstriking.
  2. Diane Yeager provides a succinct account of moral inversionin "Confronting the Minotaur: Moral Inversion and Polanyi'sMoral Philosophy," Tradition & Discovery 29, no. 1 (2002–3): 23.See also her discussion of Polanyi's ongoing use of the concept innote 1, p. 47.
  3. I will use the terms personal and tacit interchangeably. Inhis later writings, Polanyi seems to prefer to talk about tacit ratherthan personal knowledge as he comes to emphasize more theprocess of knowing rather than the status of the knowledgeproduced. On Polanyi's indebtedness to Gestalt psychology, oneof many places where he acknowledges its value can be found inPersonal Knowledge (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962),55–58 (hereafter abbreviated PK, with page numbers cited in thetext).
  4. Alasdair MacIntyre provides a persuasive account of howemotivism becomes the dominant ideology of capitalist societiesin his After Virtue, 2nd ed. (Notre Dame: University of NotreDame Press, 1984), 23–35.
  5. See Michael Polanyi and Harry Prosch, Meaning (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1975), 64–65 (hereafter abbreviatedas M, with page numbers cited in the text).
  6. Mark Discher comes closest in his "Michael Polanyi's Epistemologyof Science and Its Implications for a Problem in MoralPhilosophy," Tradition & Discovery 29, no. 1 (2002–3): 49–59.
  7. This account of the classical view of practical reasoningdraws from Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans., Martin Ostwald,Library of Liberal Arts (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.,1986), 158–173 and Thomas Aquinas, excerpts from the SummaTheologica I–II, Q. 61, aa. 1-2 and Q. 94, a. 4, in Introduction toSt. Thomas Aquinas, ed., Anton C. Pegis (New York: ModernLibrary, 1948), 586–589 and 640–642. It should be noted thatthe details of how practical reasoning and moral virtue relateremain a matter of debate among interpreters of both Aristotleand Thomas.
  8. Jonsen and Toulmin take inspiration from their experienceson a federal bioethics commission charged with setting guidelinesfor research with vulnerable populations. They note that commissionmembers came from different ethnic, disciplinary, andreligious backgrounds, and, therefore, did not share many substantivemoral convictions. Nevertheless—and surprisingly—thecommission's work was not paralyzed by interminable andunresolvable debate between competing factions. Instead, commissionersfound that as long as the discussions remained at thelevel of practical conclusions, they were able to agree quite easily.It was only when they gave reasons for their conclusions that theyfound that they could not agree with one another. See Albert R.Jonsen and Stephen Toulmin, The Abuse of Casuistry: A Historyof Moral Reasoning (Berkeley: University of California Press,1988), 16–18. Hereafter, this work will be abbreviated AC, withpage numbers cited in the text.
  9. Michael Polanyi, Knowing and Being: Essays by MichaelPolanyi, ed. Marjorie Grene (Chicago: University of ChicagoPress, 1969), 125. Hereafter, this work will be abbreviated KBwith page numbers cited in the text.
  10. See also Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension (Gloucester,MA: Peter Smith, 1983), 12–18. Subsequent references to thiswork will be given in the text, abbreviated as TD.
  11. To say this does not mean that Polanyi has no place forrules in the process of knowing, but he is clear that such rulescome after the fact and serve more as rules of thumb, approximatearticulations of what cannot be made totally explicit (see PK, 162and 200).
  12. The complexity of Polanyi's view of reality can also be seenin his account of the multileveled nature of reality, whereinprinciples pertaining to the lower levels of reality provide boundaryconditions for the principles characterizing the higher levels.See, e.g., The Tacit Dimension, 35–46.
  13. The following description of the scientific communitydraws from Knowing and Being, 49–72. Polanyi discusses thesematters throughout his writings, perhaps in the greatest detail inThe Logic of Liberty (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1951) andScience, Faith, and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1964).
  14. See Robert L. Stivers, Christine E. Gudorf, Alice FrazerEvans, and Robert A. Evans, Christian Ethics: A Case MethodApproach, 2nd ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994), 289.Subsequent references will be given in the text as Stivers, et al.
  15. Sebastian R. Alston, "Does PBR Still Work?" presented ata workshop at Mercer University, Macon, GA, March 2003, slide3, page 3. The study compared three medical schools in Holland.
  16. Stanley Hauerwas, with Richard Bondi and David Burrell,Truthfulness and Tragedy (Notre Dame: University of NotreDame Press, 1977), 18–21, emphasis added. Note the Polanyiantone of Hauerwas's remarks: his view of the tacit nature of ourmoral convictions suggests that we indwell them and use themsubsidiarily in order to respond to situations that require action.
  17. Of course, this is not to say that moral instruction couldnot occur with more than one student at a time, but it would stillrequire working with small groups.