Hartmut von Sass

Tacit Knowledge

Knowledge is one of the most basic concepts within the field of philosophy. For a long time, it was widely agreed upon that knowledge is 'justified true belief'. In various ways, this definition was attacked or expanded.

One proposal for expanding it came from chemist and philosopher of science Michael Polanyi, who introduced the concept of ‘tacit knowledge’. By this, he means practical, largely corporeal capacities, which is why one often hears about ‘embodied knowledge’.

When we ride a bike, we rely on this kind of knowledge. And the various parts of the activity – putting our feet on the pedals, keeping our balance, etc. – can never add up to that which we call riding a bike. That's why aspects of this knowledge remain 'silent', and that's also where the idea of 'tacit' comes in. This knowledge isn't easy to explicate; it remains implicit. Polyani saw every form of knowledge as having some parts that are implicit.

The concept of knowledge developed within the philosophical tradition had to be expanded in order to account for its implicit, silent aspects.

The bike has been provided by Züri rollt.

Dr. Hartmut von Sass is Associate Professor at the Institute of Hermeneutics and the Philosophy of Religion at the University of Zurich and Acting Director of the Collegium Helveticum. More

Züri rollt is a work integration program of AOZ and rents out bikes free of charge. More

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