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January 1963

Personal Knowledge: Toward a Post-Critical Philosophy

Arch Intern Med. 1963;111(1):139-142. doi:10.1001/archinte.1963.03620250143044

Three years ago, I read Michael Polanyi's contribution—as a philosopher—to a symposium entitled Scientific Outlook: Its Sickness and Cure. In a brilliant, penetrating, and delightfully humorous criticism of R. W. Gerard's1 biological contribution, he unerringly diagnosed the sickness of medicine:

The fact that a so learned, ingenious and imaginative survey of living beings should deal so perfunctorily with some of the most important questions concerning them shows a fundamental deficiency of human thinking.... If a rat laps up a solution of saccharine, the rational explanation of this lies in the act that the solution tastes sweet and that the rat likes that. The tasting and liking are facts that physics and chemistry as known today cannot explain. Nothing is relevant to biology, even at the lowest level of life, unless it bears on the achievements of living beings... and distinctions unknown to physics and chemistry... The current idea of