Starting from some results of neuroscience, and especially of Embodied Cognition, I’ll discuss the problem of the intelligent use of tools, as a useful perspective under which to investigate the link between common knowledge and scientific knowledge. The philosophical question from which I shall start my reflection is the following: how do we represent reality to ourselves when we intervene on it through the intelligent use of a tool? The answer to this problem will be developed in two fundamental steps. 1. The problem of the intelligent use of tools will be approached from the neuroscientific point of view of Embodied Cognition, from which, however, one risks drawing the impression of a radical separation between a common, practical knowledge and a more idealized scientific knowledge. 2. No such absolute separation exists, however, because all our representations of reality, when we intervene on it in a technical-practical sense, through the intelligent use of tools, depend on a collaboration between cognitive and motor elements of knowledge. This collaboration will be further exemplified through the Polanyian distinction between subsidiary and focal elements of knowledge, through which a functional mechanism can be identified, whereby knowledge is always mediated by action, both in our everyday activities and, at a more elaborated level, in science. Thus, a difference emerges, not in principle, but only in degree between common knowledge and scientific knowledge.
The quote I have chosen, taken from one of Michael Polanyi’s major works, Personal Knowledge, seems to me to be particularly significant in introducing the themes my paper will focus on. The philosophical question from which my reflection starts is the following: how do we represent reality to ourselves when we intervene on it through the intelligent use of a…
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