The polymath Michael Polanyi first made his mark as a physical chemist, but his interests gradually shifted to economics, politics, and philosophy, in which field he would ultimately propose a revolutionary theory of knowledge that grew out of his firsthand experience with both the scientific method and political totalitarianism. In this sixth entry in ISI Books' Library of Modern Thinkers' series, Mark T. Mitchell reveals how Polanyi came to recognize that the roots of the modern political and spiritual crisis lay in an errant conception of knowledge that served to foreclose any possibility of making meaningful statements about truth, goodness, or beauty. Polanyi’s theory of knowledge as ineluctably personal but also grounded in reality is not merely of historical interest, writes Mitchell, for it proposes an attractive alternative for anyone who would reject both the hubris of modern rationalism and the ultimately nihilistic implications of academic postmodernism.
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"…[A]s an accessible, short book that offers an interdisciplinary overview. It could even be the tract for taking the message to the masses…Mitchell's introductory elements become integrated in the political and intellectual controversies of our time."
"Drawing upon the recently published definitive biography of Polanyi—Michael Polanyi: Scientist and Philosopher, …Mark T. Mitchell's volume in the ISI 'Library of Modern Thinkers' series is an outstanding brief introduction."
"Michael Polanyi deserves revisiting. Because Polanyi played the parts of chemist, philosopher, theologian, and economist, tracing a single thematic arc through his work is not easy. Still, according to Mitchell, all of Polanyi's endeavors 'spring from a common concern: a tireless attempt to reestablish a legitimate grounding for liberty.' …[he was] the most intriguing philosopher of science of the twentieth century."
"Polanyi was not a concise or elegant writer, and Mark T. Mitchell has now provided a much needed introduction to his work as a philosopher. …It has taken thirty years for the rest of the world to catch up [to Polanyi], but with Mitchell's help the old vagabond seems to be coming into his own at last."
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