An Introduction to the Duke Lectures
Michael Polanyi’s Duke Lectures were given in February and
early March of 1964 when Polanyi was in residence in the spring term at
The Duke Lectures are one lecture set of several that
Polanyi delivered in the early and mid sixties. All of these sets of lectures,
as well as Polanyi’s 1966 book The Tacit
Dimension, reflect Polanyi’s effort to move from the more expansive
philosophic discussion of Personal
Knowledge to a more focused and concise treatment of his theory of tacit knowing. In November,
1961, Polanyi gave the Jefferson, or Virginia, Lectures when he was a
distinguished professor for the fall term at the
Two copies of the typescripts of the Duke Lectures were given by William Poteat to the Duke University Library and are available there. However, unpublished copies of these materials have for many years circulated among those interested in Polanyi’s thought. The clarity of the writing in this set of Polanyi lectures is noteworthy. Some scholars such as Marjorie Grene have used quotations from, or made references to, the Duke Lectures in her publications. Polanyi did intend to publish the Duke Lectures with Doubleday/Anchor, and the publication process was unfolding in the mid sixties, but Polanyi apparently had earlier signed an agreement with Yale University Press to publish The Tacit Dimension. There are eight letters in the Papers of Michael Polanyi which suggest that, although Polanyi was initially advised the Duke Lectures could be published, ultimately Doubleday lawyers decided against publication since they anticipated possible legal problems with Yale University Press. Yale University Press never actually published The Tacit Dimension, but Doubleday/Anchor did in the U.S.A. in 1966 and Routledge and Kegan Paul in London in 1967. The project to publish the Duke Lectures was never resurrected after Doubleday/Anchor became the American publisher of The Tacit Dimension. Thanks are due to Professor John Polanyi for granting permission to the Polanyi Society to post the Duke Lectures on the Polanyi Society web site.
 Several details here and below are drawn from William Taussig Scott and Martin X. Moleski, SJ, Michael Polanyi: Scientist and Philosopher (New York; Oxford University Press, 2005), 254-256. This section of the biography provides a rich account of Polanyi’s time at Duke. References below to Michael Polanyi: Scientist and Philosopher are in the text in parentheses or are listed by the authors’ names and page.
 Scott and Moleski, 321, note 22. Polanyi’s essay, “The Metaphysical Reach of Science,” first published in 1967 in British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (18: 177-196), is also available in Michael Polanyi, Society, Economics and Philosophy, Selected Papers, ed. with an introduction by R. T. Allen (New Brunswick, NJ and London: Transaction Publishers, 1997), 225-247.
 Walter Mead has done a numerical analysis of the literal and paraphrased elements found in both texts. See his essay forthcoming in Polanyiana, Vol 19:1-2 His analysis also suggests that de-emphasis on the “necessity of commitment” that Polanyi identifies as a feature of The Tacit Dimension [see p. x in the 1966 edition and pp. xvii-xix in the 2009 edition and the 1964 “Preface” to the Torchbook edition of Personal Knowledge, xi] likely actually comes after the Terry Lectures but before the Duke Lectures and is incorporated in The Tacit Dimension.
 See Marjorie Grene, The Knower and the Known (Berkeley: University of CA Press, 1966), 17, 18, 219-220, 241, and 250.
 Box 6, Folder 5 in Papers of Michael Polanyi, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.
 Thanks are also due to Richard Gelwick, Marty Moleski, Walter Gulick, Walter Mead and Paul Lewis for help with the project of putting the Duke Lectures on the web.
Duke Lectures of Michael Polanyi
Lecture files are PDF files.
Lecture 1: “The Metaphysical Reach of Science”
Lecture 2: “The Structure of Tacit Knowing”
Lecture 3: “Commitment to Science”
Lecture 4: “The Emergence of Man”
Lecture 5: “Thought in Society.”