Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Studies and Public Affairs


Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs

First Advisor

Spicer, Michael

Subject Headings

Epistemology, Philosophy of Science, Public Administration


What is meant by "science" and whether it is an appropriate model for public administration has been a subject of debate since Woodrow Wilson called for a science of administration in 1887. This dissertation introduces another voice into that debate, the voice of a world-renowned physical chemist named Michael Polanyi. Polanyi's sharp criticism of positivism reinforces the arguments of those questioning the legitimacy of an administrative science, but instead of rejecting it, he constructed an alternative definition of science that recognizes the indeterminacy of reality, the personal nature of knowledge, and the centrality of "the logic of tacit knowing." Because all knowledge is tacit or rooted in tacit knowing, we can know more than we can tell, and tacit knowing becomes evident in the dynamic order of polycentric entities and in their reliance on tradition and the person, constrained by community, and morally responsible for discovery and practice.

Included in

Epistemology Commons