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Sense-Giving and Sense-Reading

  • Michael Polanyi (a1)

I propose to enquire here into the way we endow our speech with meaning and into the way by which we make sense of speech that we hear spoken. I shall show that, notwithstanding their informal character, these acts possess a characteristic pattern, a pattern that I shall call the structure of tacit knowing; I shall show that to form such a structure is to create meaning. Both the way we endow our own utterances with meaning and our attribution of meaning to the utterances of others are acts of tacit knowing. They represent sense-giving and sense-reading with in the structure of tacit knowing. My enquiry shall outline the total structure of language, comprising both its formal patterns successfully established by modern linguistics and its informal semantic structure, studied so far mainly by philosophy.

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page 306 note 1 Described in my Personal Knowledge, London and Chicago (1958), p. 37. The ideas on language developed in the present paper were largely anticipated in this book, particularly in Chapter 4 on Skills, pp. 49–63, and in Chapter 5 on Articulation, pp. 69–124.

page 307 note 1 See Baker, J. R., Fourn. Roy. Microscopic Society, Vol. 82, 1963, pp. 145157.

page 308 note 1 Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, l.c. p. 101.

page 312 note 1 Erwin Straus, This Primary World of Senses, Pt. II, Ch.B., Sect. 3, p. 149. This chapter was first published in German in 1956. The quotation is from the English edition (Glencoe and London 1963).

page 312 note 2 Langer, S. K., Philosophy in a New Key, Mentor Book, New York, (1941), p. 61.

page 314 note 1 Polanyi, Michael, The Tacit Dimension, Doubleday, New York (1966), Routledge, London (1967), p. 21.

page 314 note 2 Of his own ‘generative grammar’ Chomsky writes that ‘its roots are firmly in traditional linguistics’. Chomsky, Noam, Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, The Hague, 1964, p. 20.

page 315 note 1 Chomsky, Noam, Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, MIT Press 1965, p. 57.

page 315 note 2 Ibid.

page 315 note 3 Ibid., p. 56.

page 316 note 1 Humphrey, G. H., Thinking (London, 1951), p. 262.

page 317 note 1 A similar, some what briefer, account of the following illustration was given by Polanyi, Michael, ‘The Creative Imagination’, Chemical and Engineering News, Vol. 44, 1966, pp. 8593.

page 317 note 2 Snyder, F. W. and Pronko, N. H., Vision with Spatial Inversion, Wichita, Kansas (1952).

page 317 note 3 Heinrich Kottenhoff, ‘Was ist Richtiges Sehen mit Umkehrbrillen and welchem Sinne stellt sich das Sehen um?’ (English translation: ‘What is right seeing with invertiing spectacles and in what sense is seeing re-inverted?), Psychologia Universalis Vol. 5, Vig. Anton Rain, Meisenheim am Glan (1961). Kottenhoff's enquiry was carried out as a doctoral dissertation in the Institute of Experimental Psychology of the university of Innsbruck under professor Th. Erisman. It was completed in 1956.

page 317 note 4 Stratton, G. M.Psychological Rev. 4 (1897), pp. 341360, 463481, does not claim that the right way of seeting with inverting spectacles (achieved after eight days) consists in the turning back of the visual image. He identifies the reuslt with ‘upright vision’, for, he says, ‘the real meaning of upright vision’ is a ‘harmony between touch and sight’.

page 318 note 1 Kottenhoff, loc, cit., p. 78.

page 318 note 2 Ibid., p. 80, also p. 64 and passim

page 318 note 3 Snyder and Pronko, loc. cit., p. 113.

page 323 note 1 Chomsky, Noam, Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, MIT Press 1965, p. 58.

page 323 note 2 This is true in general for the discovery or learning of skills. New principles make their appearance first in mere tendencies which are then sharpened and eventually consolidated.

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  • EISSN: 1469-817X
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