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If Nelson and Winter are only half right about tacit knowledge, which half? A Searlean critique of 'codification'

  • Paul Nightingale

The paper explores the inherent tensions in the relationships between different theories of knowledge. The paper shows how Polanyi's rather nebulous concept of tacit knowledge can be given a rigorous foundation in recent biological treatments that link neurological causal processes, subjective mental states and speech acts. Drawing on the work of John Searle, the paper shows how information-processing approaches relate to these 'cause and effect' relationships in order to critique the binary distinction between tacit and codified knowledge. The utility of the framework and the problems with this binary distinction are illustrated by showing the confusions behind recent theories that propose that information technologies allow the codification of tacit knowledge. Errors inherent in the idea of codification are traced back to Newell and Simon's abstract 'programme level' of explanation. Implications for science policy, technical learning, management and innovation are discussed. Copyright 2003, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Industrial and Corporate Change.

Volume (Year): 12 (2003)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 149-183

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Handle: RePEc:oup:indcch:v:12:y:2003:i:2:p:149-183
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