2 thoughts on “Thought

  1. Well, that’s not necessarily bad. If something works in fact but not in theory, that’s just another way of saying that you don’t know why it works in fact – and, therefore, can’t possibly guarantee that it will continue to work in fact. If I were the modern age, I’d replace that, too.

    But perhaps you mean that it is modernity’s inveterate tendency to act upon whichever of two (or more) rival theories is *least* fully borne out in practice. There is, I daresay, something to be said for this thesis – though, even there, I for one would need more specifics before I accepted it fully. (Also, it would be nice to know what, precisely, you mean by “works in fact”. If a course of action fully achieves its stated end, but at the same time makes more desirable ends impossible to achieve, does it “work in fact”?)

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    • I don’t mean to imply that something that works in fact may not also work in theory, only that (in this admittedly laconic and truncated dichotomy) a thing that only works in theory may or may not work in fact. Then again, the theory of why something works in fact may or may not be true, and most theories are erroneous to a greater or lesser degree simply because we usually can’t take account of all the factors.

      By works in fact I mean a thing generally achieves its stated end, while by works in theory I mean there is an idea or mental construct of how it ought to work.

      To take a simple example that I was just reading about on another blog, traditional style Church architecture works in fact in that it ordinarily inspires a sense of awe, reverence, and wonder in the viewer. You can explain how it works (in theory), but doing so is usually not necessary to justify it or to create the desired effect. On the other hand, ‘modernist’ architecture works in theory, as someone may say “I designed this church to create the image of a ship,” or “a lack or right angles creates a sense of mystery.” But this is not the typical reaction a person has in fact; their reactions tend to be indifference or confusion. The explanation – the theory – is actually necessary to justify it.

      The point is that what works in fact and only requires a theory to explain how it works is replaced with something that does not work in fact, or does not work the same extent, but which comes with a plausible-sounding theory to explain why it ought to work better than the thing it replaces.

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