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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

M. Polanyi on Maxims

"Maxims are rules, the correct application of which is part of the art which they govern. The true maxims of golfing or of poetry increase our insight into golfing or poetry and may even give valuable guidance to golfers and poets; but these maxims would instantly condemn themselves to absurdity if they tried to replace the golfer's skill or the poets art. Maxims cannot be understood, still less applied by anyone not already possessing a good practical knowledge of the art. They derive their interest from our appreciation of the art and cannot themselves either replace or establish that appreciation." -- Personal Knowledge, p. 31

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm... I remember a wood-turning class I took. The instructor took several hours to explain the basics and perform numerous demonstrations, just to get us to the point where we were ready to apply spindle gouges to wood.

    If you don't make contact with the wood just so, the gouge will grab the wood and jump in your hand, damaging the piece in the process.

    After a great number of false starts, it suddenly came to me- that's the wrong way to say it. Anyway it started working after several hours of solitary effort. My first thought was-- "It's exactly as he explained it!"

    He was a genuine master of the art. He could cut dovetails perfectly the first time (ie without requiring any slight adjustments with the chisel to mate properly) while keeping up a patter of commentary on the process and the tools.

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