Abstract

This chapter seeks to clarify further the concept of “tacit knowledge”. It presents a critique of both critics and defenders of this concept. It argues that the critics fail to pay attention to the practical case studies that have been done in relation to this concept, and its importance for considering the design of new technologies. There is also a criticism, of those defenders who suggest that tacit knowledge is a vague concept, i.e. that it is intuition which can never be expressed or described. The chapter focuses on the work of Scandinavian researchers from the hermeneutics tradition, who have shown that tacit knowledge is in fact far from vague. Experts in fact have a mastery of the most sophisticated rule-following procedure in their fields (not procedures in the computational sense). This mastery is shown in their performance, their very practice. Tacit knowledge is in the practice, hence it is skill that can be passed down through apprenticeship. The chapter argues the case for hermeneutists, such as those from the Swedish Centre for Working Life, being in the best position to help in articulating the skills of experts who need assistance to do so.

Keywords

Burning Manifold Drilling Smoke Logical Positivism 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Perby, Maja-Lisa (1988) Computerization and skill in local weather forecasting. In: Gòranzon B, Josefson I (eds) Knowledge, skill and artificial intelligence, Springer-Verlag, London, Hedelberg, New York, pp 39–52.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    My comments here are directed at unpublished remarks concerning the use of the term tacit knowledge made by Hubert Dreyfus.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Janik, Allan (1988) Tacit knowledge, working life and scientific method. In: Göranzon and Josefson (eds) Knowledge, skill and artificial intelligence, pp 53–66.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For example, a machine that can “smell” coffee: Prawitz, D (1989) Tacit knowledge, contribution to a panel discussion at the conference: video, Audio-Visual Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Carnap, Rudolph (1959) Psychology in a physical language. In: Ayer AJ (ed) Logical positivism, The Free Press, New York, pp 165–198.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Neurath, Otto (1983) In: Cohen RS, Neurath M (eds) Philosophical papers, The Vienna Collection no. 16, Reidel, Amsterdam, pp 52–114 and 159–171.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    I am deeply indebted to Alfred LaRue’s vast store of practical knowledge for pertinent information concerning the functioning of smoke detectors and the epistemology of smelling. He is of the opinion that smell detectors could be constructed but that the complexity involved would hardly make the venture worth while.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    They fail to see the huge difference between the requirements that human action be compatible with the laws of physics and its reduction to physics.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Huxley, Aldous (1955) After many a summer, Penguin, Harmondsworth, pp 184–185.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Richard Schmitt, philosopher, computer scientist and gourmet called this to my attention in Evansville, IL, in June 1988.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    H Dreyfus at an interview by Hannah Boenisch: video, Audio-Visual Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See Göranzon and Josefson (eds) Knowledge, skill and artificial intelligence, contributions by: Goranzon B, The practice of the use of computers. A paradoxical encounter between different traditions of knowledge (pp 9–18); Josefson I, The nurse as engineer - the theory of knowledge in research in the care sector (pp 19–30); Gullers P, Automation - skill - apprenticeship (pp 31–38); Perby M-L, Computerization and skill in local weather forecasting (pp 39–52).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Kjell S. Johannessen pointed this out in his critique of John Rawls classic paper on types of rule: Johannessen (1981) Language art and aesthetic practice. In: Johannessen, Kjell S and Nordenstam, Tore (eds) Wittgenstein, aesthetics and transcendental philosophy, Holder- Pichler-Tempsky, Vienna, pp 101–126.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Gullers, Petef, Instrument makers and surgeons, unpublished report, Stockholm.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Alasdair Maclntyre emphasized this point in his (unpublished) lectures at Brandeis University in 1970.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    I am indebted to Dr Elizabeth Leinfellner for this example. She is one of the very few people who share my enthusiasm for cooking as a field for epistemological discussion: Stephen Toulmin and Kjell S. Johannessen are others.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Horace Engdahl discussed this excellent example in his interview with Hannah Boenisch: video, Audio-Visual Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    My sketch recapitulates (?caricatures) Books I and III of Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    I have explored this theme in: Janik A (1989) Self-deception, naturalism and certainty. In: Style, politics and the future of philosophy, Boston Studies in the philosophy of science, Reidel, Amsterdam.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Norman Malcolm and Lars Hertzberg (in litt.) have developed various aspects of the role of natural history in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    The classic statement of this position is: Winch, Peter (1957) The idea of social science, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953) Philosophische Untersuchungen, part I, §201. Cf. note 12, above.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1969) Uber Gewissheit, §§ 121–130 and 225.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    This reflects my own experience as Denis Corish taught me what to see/know about Chinese bronzes at Harvard’s Fogg Museum in the summer of 1967.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    See the essay refered to in note 19; see also my chapter, Socialization is creative because creativity is social, in the same collection.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Dewey, John (1950) Reconstruction in philosophy, Mentor, New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allan Janik

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