Oakeshott's Cookbook

Dreher flags an article by Adam Gopnik:

The metaphor of the cookbook was long the pet metaphor of the conservative political philosopher Michael Oakeshott in his assault on the futility of thinking that something learned by rote was as good as what was learned by ritual. Oakeshott's much repeated point was that one could no more learn how to make good government from a set of rules than one could learn how to bake a cake by reading recipe books. The cookbook, like the constitution, was only the residue of a practice. Even the most grammatical of cookbooks dies without living cooks to illuminate its principles. The history of post-independence African republics exists to prove the first point; that Chocolate Nemesis cake that always fails but your friends keep serving anyway exists to prove the second. Unsupported by your mom, the cookbook is the model of empty knowledge.

This is the critique of rationalism that Oakeshott made famous (well, famous among those interested in political philosophy). But one of Oakeshott's inspirations for this was the remarkable writing of Chiang Tzu.