Furthermore, he offers a cogent critique of pretty much everything that is wrong with the world, philosophically, politically, educationally, and economically. Perhaps I don't mention him often enough, because I have long since internalized his ideas as my own. I playgiarize with them all the time.
It reminds me of what Stevie Ray Vaughan did with Jimi Hendrix. Vaughan so mastered the Hendrix style that it became just another color in his musical pallete. He incorporated Hendrix without slavishly imitating him.
If there were a Gagdad University -- like Prager University -- then Polanyi would be one of the core courses.
As Prosch writes, "no one other than Polanyi has in recent years been so assiduous in ferreting out and criticizing those attitudes, beliefs, and working principles that have debilitated the modern mind by undermining its trust in its own higher capacities; nor has anyone else offered more pregnant suggestions for a truly new philosophic position free from these difficulties."
His philosophy is simultaneously revolutionary and restorative, or liberal (in the true sense of the word) and conservative; you could say that it is classically liberal, underlying the permanent revolution that is the quest for truth. Science always "rebels" against what it knows by trying to see further and deeper.
One refreshing thing about Polanyi (to put it mildly) is that he was not a philosopher per se. Rather, he was a highly accomplished scientist, and only began dabbling in philosophy around mid-life. Nor did he ever immerse himself in philosophy as such. He didn't read everything that came before. As far as I recall, there are few if any references to past philosophers. Given his age, I don't think Polanyi had the time to both study philosophy and conduct it. Therefore, there is a freshness to his approach, as he takes nothing for granted, and is always dealing with fundamental issues.
In this regard he is similar to Whitehead, who also came to philosophy late in life, after a career as one of the most eminent mathematicians in history. In neither man did mere academic knowledge interfere with their not-knowing. And it turns out that this very principle is one elucidated in Polanyi's philosophy.
For the philosopher, it is a question of whether one "should be a physician or a servant -- whether he should continually try to improve the minds and souls of his fellow citizens, or try to serve their existing tastes and interests" (Prosch). Like Socrates, Polanyi is clearly a physician of the soul. And his prescription is pro-biotic, pro-psychic, and pro-pneumatic. He activates Life on all levels, without saturating or stifling it with pre-digested dogma.
Several key principles come to mind when I think of his philosophy: freedom. Exploration. Adventure. Discovery.
His philosophy disposes of contemporary liberalism in such devastating fashion, that it is surprising how long it took for me to abandon it. In other words, I read and was influenced by Polanyi long before I discovered the truth about the left, and switched sides. How is this possible? What about the cognitive dissonance?
Well. There are pro-abortion and pro-redefinition of marriage Catholic Democrats, so we should never be surprised at the contortions of which the mind is capable. Look at all the liberals who insist we should discriminate on the basis of race when it comes to college or employment, but not practice common-sense affirmative action in policing or airport security.
I first read Polanyi in the 1980s, while working on my masters degree (not for my masters degree; rather, just for future blogging material). I didn't know anything about economics at the time, nor did I have any interest in it, so I must have just skipped over those parts. And so stupidly confident was I in the self-evident truth of leftism, that it is possible I simply hallucinated Polanyi's agreement with me.
Again, we shouldn't be surprised at such feats of ignorance. For example, Justices Ginsburg, or Sotomayor, or Kagan are no doubt 100% convinced they are defending the Constitution. They have read the document as surely as I have, and yet, somehow think it agrees with their positions. So, I wasn't exceptional, just a typical deluded liberal.
Cognitive dissonance. I can't stand it, on any level. Rather, the Raccoon demands complete consistency. The other day, Dennis Prager was saying the same thing. He wondered out loud if there are liberals who have listened to him for a long time, and yet, remained liberal, asking any such specimens to call in. I only heard one before I reached my destination, and he very much reminded me of me, back in the day. A lot of disconnected left-wing talking points were lodged in his head like rocks in a machine.
If you want to see a real-time example, then read the comments of our recent troll, whose mind has been entirely infiltrated and hijacked by self-replicating left-wing talking points. Speaking from personal experience, these memes take over the host in the same way viruses enter the nucleus of the cell and begin reproducing themselves.
Is a virus alive or dead? Has that question been decided by biology? At least on the psycho-spirtual plane, it is a kind of negative facsimile of life: it resembles a living process while promoting death and disease. Likewise, a liberal indoctrination surely resembles an education. But it serves death, not life.
Speaking of which, I ran across an article by Anthony Esolen called Exercises in Unreality: The Decline in Teaching Western Civilization. It's a little turgid, but he does point out how the left wrecked education, ruined everybody's lives, and ate all our steak. He focuses on the philosophically and spiritually retarded John Dewey, who
"was classically trained but would have none of it for the ordinary democratic masses. He had no use for the useless things -- that is, the best and noblest things: no use for poetry, flights of imagination, beauty, religion, and tradition. He was a hidebound innovator."
Hidebound innovator. That is a good encrapsulation of liberalism, in that it is regression masquerading as progress, or barbarism dressed in Pajama Boy's clothing. It is tyranny disguised as liberation, mobocracy as democracy, discrimination as equality, stupidity as wisdom, and cruelty as compassion.
By the 1960s, Dewey's methods had produced a cohort "well trained in his democratic scorn. Out with the notion that the academy is not a place for political recruitment, precisely because it is to be devoted to the truth. 'What is truth?' said the serious Dewey, and he could not wait to give us all his answer: truth was only what could be ascertained by empirical observation and measurement. That meant that only the hard sciences could rest upon their foundations. Every other building could be commandeered by the politicians, or blown to bits."
It is this hideous, anti-human philosophy that Polanyi tears to shreds. But liberals continue their insane project:
"They began to turn arts and letters into instruments of politics, or to blow them to bits. Thus the demand that literature be 'relevant.' Homer is relevant to me because Homer is relevant to man. But once you deny that there are stable truths to be learned about man by studying his history, his philosophy, and his art, what is left for Homer but to be adopted by a few curious souls who happen to like him.... And there are nearer ways to go to burn down buildings than by struggling over Homeric verbs. So in a few short years, centuries of learning were merely tossed aside. The central pier cracked, the bridge buckled, and the waters came crashing through."
Which is why a liberal indoctrination leaves its recipients all wet. A few weeks ago I was talking to our son's tutor, an extremely bright college graduate. She must be about 22, and has been accepted to graduate school. I don't recall how we got on the subject, but I mentioned the founders and their vision of a limited government.
Long story short, it was all new to her! Because she is bright, she was extremely interested in what I had to say, but I was telling her things she should have learned by the 6th grade.
For the left, it is not that such things are simply "not taught," i.e., ignored or overlooked. Rather, they are aggressively untaught and displaced by un-American principles like "diversity," multiculturalism, and state-imposed "equality," i.e., illiberal leftism.
That reminds me. Another listener called into Prager's show that day, and said that her son's high school history book has a chapter on the Cold War. In it there is no mention of Stalin, but a helpful chart that lists the pros and cons of communism vs. capitalism!
I would no sooner send my son to a public school than let him walk around uninoculated from disease.