M Polanyi on Communication


'If any one of them can explain it,' said Alice, .... 'I'll give him sixpence. I don't believe there's an atom of meaning in it.'

'If there's no meaning in it,' said the King, 'that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn't try to find any. And yet I don't know, .... I seem to see some meaning in them, after all.'

- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: first published 1865,

"Every time we use a word in speaking and writing we both comply with usage and at the same time somewhat modify the existing usage .... even the sharpest dissent still operates by partial submission to an existing consensus: for the revolutionary must speak in terms that people can understand. Moreover, every dissenter is a teacher. .... revolutionaries .... [do] not seek to abolish authority, but to claim it for themselves. .... I cannot speak of a scientific fact .... without implying a reference to a consensus by which these matters are acknowledged - or denied to be - what I declare them to be. I must continually endorse the existing consensus or dissent from it to some degree [Note 1] .... " - M Polanyi, "Personal Knowledge", pub. RKP 1958, p208/9

Note 1. At this point Catt asserts that if he is too far from the pre-existing consensus, his communication conveys no meaning. Any attempt to communicate is inherently normative. - Ivor Catt, 1 July 2006

Also see McLuhan




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