Tacit Knowledge and the Problem of Computer Modelling Cognitive Processes in Science

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Book Chapter

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Expert System, Tacit Knowledge, Ecological Validity, Empirical Account, Global Identity

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Once one has said that there is a “tacit dimension” of some sort to communication or to some cognitive activity, it seems like an appropriate step to make it a topic for research. The difficulty with this suggestion is that it assumes that in fact we have some sort of unproblematic mode of access to our implicit understandings, to the “tacit dimension.” To be sure, sometimes portions of this “dimension” are revealed to us, as when we find that others don’t share some procedure we follow “naturally” or habitually, or when we find ourselves in circumstances where these procedures fail, and we are forced to, and can, find replacements for them. But these are perhaps exceptional cases, revealed for us through contingent and possibly rare circumstances. And if this is so, it follows that a project of revealing the tacit dimension would depend on some premises that would give one some assurances that one’s techniques indeed reveal the necessary parts of it. It is one thing to have a method of turning over rocks to see if there are salamanders under them; it is another to form a project of counting all the salamanders in a given area, for one doesn’t know that they are all assessable by the known means.

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Tacit Knowledge and the Problem of Computer Modelling Cognitive Processes in Science, in S. Fuller, M. de Mey, T. Shinn & S. Woolgar (Eds.), The Cognitive Turn: Sociological and Psychological Perspectives on Science, Springer, p. 83-94