The Poetics of Thought

Tacit Space

Posted in Uncategorized by Fred McVittie on December 3, 2009

The other term in Polanyi’s apparent binary is, as already noted, ‘tacit’, and is familiar from its derivative, ‘taciturn’.  (‘Apparent’ because they are neither complementary not opposite, as Polanyi himself indicates they are terms which describe the structure of a ‘dimension’, not separate and isolated alternatives ). Both words have in common their origins in silence, and in that which is passed over in silence.  The difference that makes a difference is that, whilst taciturn suggests a reluctance or unwillingness to speak, tacit does not offer even the possibility.  .  Paralleling the physical principle of ‘subsidiary awareness’ outlined above, to be tacit is to be constitutive of expressibility but to take no part in that expression.  Though it has position within the body of the speaker, that position is disposition.   In contrast to explicit knowledge which folds out in the direction of a metaphorically external, distant object, tacit knowledge stays close to home and the condition of the subject.  In the spectrum of knowing and being, tacit knowledge blends into being.

The overall image that Polanyi provides is one in which an understanding of knowledge and knowing  maps onto our experience of being the being at the centre of phenomenal space and makes consistent use of metaphors of space as well as the different sensory modalities which function at different spatial removes.  That which is tacit and which is close to us, or which is interior to us, does not extend into space and cannot be visualized and objectified.  If it is sensed at all this sense is felt rather than observed, a sensorial engagement appropriate to its proximal intimacy.  That knowledge which is tacit is held in the necessary silence of our being.  As knowledge becomes explicit it coalesces into another being beyond the limits of our skin and the limits of our arms.  Performing its primal act, knowledge rolls out toward the horizon, leading our eyes to the object created by that unfolding.

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