Seamanship, Navigation, Piloting, Metis Techne

From Seeing Like a State by James C Sott.




The author should have chosen a different word for the ineffable skill he is referring to. His term “Metis” is, to my mind, too close to to the word Métis. The Métis are a Canadian people, the fusion of First Nations and French trappers. A little known group, outside of Canada, but with a history closely associated with canoe and boat travel on rivers and lakes, which can lead to confusion given Sott’s thesis.

The Greek word metis is far too good of a word to give up. Aristotle no less singles out navigation (and medicine) as an activity that requires it for superior performance.

Aristotle singled out navigation and medicine as two activities in which the practical wisdom of long experience is indispensable to superior performance. They were mētis-laden activities in which responsiveness, improvisation, and skillful, successive approximations were required.

I also thought that was interesting that the author, Scott, mentions that at sea navigation takes less skill because chart work abstracts away most of the real world to make it easier.

6 posts were split to a new topic: Exxon Valdez Grounding #2

The term Col John Boyd used that is similar is the borrowed German word Fingerspitzengefühl the literal meaning is finger tip feel.

In the same neighborhood is the french word Coup d’œil

From Farwell’s