Knowledge, practical and technical

The things we know best are those we have not learned. – Vauvenargues

[The rationalist] sincerely believes that a training in technical knowledge is the only education worth while, because he is moved by the faith that there is no knowledge, in the proper sense, except technical knowledge. – Oakeshott, Rationalism in Politics, p33

Duke Huan of Ch’i was reading a book at the upper end of the hall; the wheelwright was making a wheel at the lower end. Putting aside his mallet & chisel, he called to the Duke & asked him what book he was reading. ‘One that records the words of the Sages,’ answered the Duke. ‘Are those Sages alive?’ asked the wheelwright. ‘Oh, no,’ said the Duke, ‘they are dead.’ ‘In that case,’ said the wheelwright, ‘what you are reading can be nothing but the lees & scum of bygone men.’ ‘How dare you, a wheelwright, find fault with the book I am reading. If you can explain your statement, I will let it pass. If not, you shall die.’ ‘Speaking as a wheelwright,’ he replied, ‘I look at the matter in this way; when I am making my wheel, if my stroke is too slow, then it bites deep but is not steady; if my stroke is too fast, then it is steady, but it does not go deep. The right pace, neither too slow nor fast, cannot get into the hand unless it comes from the heart. It is a thing that cannot be put into words; there is an art in it that I cannot explain to my son. That is why it is impossible for me to let him take over my work, & here I am at the age of seventy still making wheels. In my opinion it must have been the same with the men of old. All that was worth handing on, died with them; the rest, they put in their books. That is why is said that what you were reading was the lees & scum of bygone men.’ – Chuang Tzu (Quoted in Rationalism in Politics)



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