Monday, June 22, 2015

Study of Man

The Study of Man by Michael Polanyi, 102 pages

The written compilation of a series of lectures given by Polanyi at the University College of North Staffordshire in 1958, these essays serve as an addendum to his book Personal Knowledge.  Primarily, they serve as a brief introduction to some of the epistemological theories elaborated in the book, and a subsequent argument for the unity of the natural sciences, social sciences, and historical scholarship.

Polanyi establishes a logical hierarchy, with parts lower than wholes, and with inanimate objects below subrational animals and animals below rational human beings.  Higher levels require greater understanding, a more complex and intimate relationship between subject and object.  As rational creatures, the persons studied by historians are subject to respect and reproach, but only with the proper qualifications necessary to avoid presentism and relativism.

An interesting contribution to a seemingly obscure discussion, the results of which carry considerable ramifications for the place of the humanities in the modern academy.

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