The relationship between theory and practice back to classics

the relationship between theory and practice back to classics

In mathematics, the problematic relationship between theory and practice is wery . I have 2 compressed discs in my lower back and they hurt. . .org/excerpts-from-the-classics-contribution-of-marx-and-engels-role-of-theory/. Each successive handbook has attempted to reflect the state of theory and practice included reflecting on 'putting the handbook together, with a brief back story for those produced - that is, did not resolve -the classic theory-practice gap. the integral relationship between how we conceptualize practice and the actions. 32 Lessons for Evidence-Informed Practice James A. Forte. Forte, J. A. (b). The relation between theory and practice: Back to the classics. In F. A. J.

One reason why the remark is well worn is that it captures in pithy fashion the value of both the distinction and the connection of theory-practice. As pastoral theologian Rod Hunter points out in his reflection on teaching pastoral care, the English word, theory, and its French and German cognates, come from the Greek root to see.

It is related to theatre as a place of seeing.

The theory-practice distinction and the complexity of practical knowledge

Stated most simply, theory is 'a set of ideas' Hunter Even though theorising about theory feels as if it puts us 'five removes from real life', theory is 'just human activity bending back upon itself', according to literary theorist Terry Eagleton Hunter proposes his own 'small theory of pastoral practice' In other words, despite all its historical and conceptual problems, the distinction between theory and practice has a valued role to play.

Besides confirming my appreciation for both kinds of knowledge, including insisting that there is a 'time and place for abstraction' Miller-McLemore c: In particular, 'insufficient attention has gone to the role and function of theory' Theory as a term seems self-evident.

But we need more work on its dynamics and limitations. Practical theologians tend to deploy theory to conjure all sorts of meanings, as 'a catch-all of concepts, definitions, heuristic and interpretive frameworks' for 'anything that serves as a counterweight to practice', as practical theologian Eileen Campbell-Reed observes Those of us who strive to revalue practical knowledge are often tempted toward stark contrasts and unnecessary oppositions.

Danish sociologist Bent Flyvbjerg, who I otherwise admire for his persuasive account of the value of concrete context-dependent knowledge, is a good example. In making his case, he draws the contrast too sharply at times with unnecessary superlatives, concluding, for example, that: Therefore … the best that teachers can do for students in professional programs is to help them achieve real practical experience: He allows that 'there is a need for both approaches' p.

It is imperative not to set theoretical knowledge over against practical knowledge. Rather for the sake of practical knowledge itself, it is important to keep different knowledge types in synergistic relationship to one another. As I conclude in my presidential address response, I hope we can 'increase appreciation for practical knowledge without decreasing the value of theoretical knowledge' c: This requires a 'richer understanding of diverse kinds of knowing and their complex interrelationship, especially when the subject matter is religion, theology, and practices of religious life and communities' p.

Most practical theologians would say that theory as knowledge gleaned from religious traditions and distilled at a distance from practice has a valid place, with disciplines such as systematic theology and biblical and historical studies offering concepts that Christian laity and professionals need as much as practical knowledge, just in different ways and at different points.

Making theory 'play a different role' People today across many settings have greater appreciation for what German political theologian Johann Baptist Metz over 30 years ago called the 'intelligible force of praxis itself' or the knowledge that emerges within practices Intellectuals as divergent as Karl Marx, William James, and pastoral theology forerunner Seward Hiltner all suggest, in contrast with antiquity's hierarchy of theoria over praxis, that practice produces valuable knowledge of a distinct order and kind, even if theologians are still uncertain about exactly how or what theological knowledge is created or fostered through practice.

To address this query, practical theologians have often worked at what I would call a meta-disciplinary level, focusing on all-encompassing methods for bridging theory and practice. Richard Osmer offers the most recent example. Although helpful in guiding people from situational description to analysis of traditions before taking practical steps, these approaches often drift back to a flat, non-dynamic reading of doctrine, tradition and scripture as theory and of experience, action and situations as practice.

These large-scale strategies are designed to bring into conversation the whole theological curriculum in the mind of the actor, whether minister, scholar or person of faith.

By contrast, something important might be learned about theology in practice not just by making sweeping curricular moves but also by considering how theory functions pragmatically.

Practical theology 'does not renounce theory', says French Canadian Marcel Viau, 'but makes it play rather a different role' b: I take his suggestion that practical theologians 'make theory play rather a different role' as invitation to think further about the distinct ways in which practical theologians employ theory.

Practical theologians vary from those in other disciplines in how we create, regard and convey theory on the ground. First, theory does not emerge from thinking alone but also out of pain and struggle, through participation and connection as much as through ratiocination and proclamation see Miller-McLemore, a: Second, the articulation of theory often requires close observation of and engagement in living realities action, practice, life and not or not always a distancing from an object.

the relationship between theory and practice back to classics

Third, theory is seen as indelibly shaped by character, personal and pastoral formation, social and political context, and history and historical location. As part of this dynamic, theory has a necessary affective component for practical theologians due to the emotional valence that surrounds issues of deep meaning.

Purely rational discussion is inadequate to the task of intellectual change see Miller-McLemore, a: Fourth, to be understood by others, theoretical knowledge in practical theology usually requires translation, illustration and enactment, leading teachers of practical theological disciplines to consider more active, bodily-engaged and experiential modes for learning see Miller-McLemore, a: Fifth, practical theologians differ in why one pursues theory and what happens as a result.

Theory is sought for wider purposes, usually not as an end in itself, and, since it changes what we see and know, it also creates responsibilities, often convicting and committing us to certain goods and unexpected transformations that run beyond anything theory alone might suggest.

Sixth and worth more commentary at this point, practical theologians are especially sensitive to the limitations of theory. Practice escapes or surpasses theory in everyday life in two important ways: By eludes, I mean that theory cannot contain all the richness of practice, and by trumps, I mean that practices such as taking care of a child or responding to someone dying become, in the immediacy of the demand, more important than stepping back to theorise about them.

First, on how practice eludes theory. Practical theologians are cautious about putting too much weight on theory. Theory does not always fit. So, sticking to it inflexibly limits and even harms the knowledge one might glean via practice, which outgrows and subsumes theory. In Tracy's earliest essay on practical theology, written for a conference that initiated a revitalisation of the discipline in the United States, he describes praxis as 'theory-laden' and uses an unfamiliar term sublate to capture the elusive nature of practice, perhaps drawing on a theory-practice typology developed by Matthew Lamb and philosopher Nicholas Lobkowicz's more elaborate overview.

More common in science and German philosophy, the term sublate means to assimilate as a part within a larger whole. Tracy observes that 'praxis can sublate theory, neither merely apply nor simply negate it' Lamb says, 'no theory … can fully sublate praxis, although praxis is able to sublate theory' Although neither Tracy nor Lamb offer helpful example to show what they mean here, and their analysis remains highly abstract and difficult to understand, I interpret their turn to the term sublate as a means to underscore how practice outreaches theory.

One cannot simply apply in practice what one learns in theory elsewhere; nor can concrete action itself provide everything that is 'necessary for truth in theology' Tracy Rather practice takes theory into itself and transforms or surpasses it.

Others, such as Viau, focus more explicitly on the 'limits of language as a tool' in comprehending the subject matter that practical theology studies - performance, individual and social practices, or what he calls 'interactions in experience'. Consequently, our discourse, Viau says, is a 'kind of handiwork', a 'human fabrication' that is 'by nature artistic or "poietic [sic]"' a: Many people describe religious life as an experience or a reality where a 'surplus of meaning' or 'excess' abounds, thereby making religion, as Tracy comments, the 'most difficult and thereby the best test of any theory of interpretation' But psychologists and anthropologists also encounter the elusive nature of practice and insist that theory not impede perception of clients or cultural subjects by limiting what one sees.

Practice has certain properties that 'by definition escape theoretical apprehension', as anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu remarks Hence, we should 'avoid asking of [practice] more logic than it can give' p. Words often limit and falsify the temporal and corporeal 'relations which the language of the body suggests' p.

Self-psychologist Heinz Kohut employs the terms experience near and experience distant to differentiate levels of theory, 'one of which proceeds to closure without the necessary data', as a prominent follower Arnold Goldberg explains, 'whereas the other waits for the confirming data to emerge' Kohut Experience distant ideas develop from experience near clinical engagement and must be held lightly so as not to impede understanding the client's reality, creating what medical anthropologist and psychiatrist Arthur Kleinman calls a 'false subject' To understand 'what is at stake for particular individuals in particular situations' p.

The practical order is simply less 'amenable' to the 'type of scientificity' characteristic of the 'theoretical order' Ricoeur Finally, practice not only eludes theory; practical commitments also 'trump' theory and challenge us to justify our pursuit of theoretical knowledge.

Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund, declares, 'I am less interested in formulating theoretical frameworks than I am in feeding, clothing, healing, housing, and educating as many American children as soon as possible' Ministers and those economically, politically and socially disadvantaged, as Hugo Santos illustrates in his reflection on teaching practical theology in Argentina, face a similar choice Those closest to practice have the least amount of time and energy, social, economic and political resources, and power to give conceptual framework to the knowledge they acquire.

Practical theologians join a long legacy of scholars who must figure out how to justify theoretical research that seems removed from addressing dire circumstances - the notorious ivory tower. She begins a study of theory and practice in Hellenistic ethics by contrasting two worlds - the world of leisured reflection and the world in which 'hunger, illiteracy, and disease are the daily lot' p.

In the midst of preparing a lecture or writing an article - possibly after having torn themselves away from a family event or news of the latest world crisis - [literary] critics will ask themselves …'What is the point of this work I do? Does it relate intrinsically to anything that is genuinely important in my life or in the world at large?

She is one of the few theological educators who has also grappled with questions about the value of long hours of library study. The Phadreus tells Socrates' story of King Thamus who rejects the gift of writing because he fears it will impede live conversation and mislead people into believing that wisdom is available to all Paulsell Questions about concentrated scholarship emerge from her own experience and her students. Will reading Kierkegaard do any good 'when our world is on the verge of war?

Can Paulsell herself justify hours spent reading medieval church history and mystical theology for doctoral exams while her sister risks her life working for human rights in war-torn El Salvador? These questions especially haunt practical theologians who assume as a core feature of our identities influence on the world. Nussbaum answers her own question by insisting that 'philosophy itself, while remaining itself, can perform social and political functions, making a difference in the world by using its own distinctive methods and skills' The sources to which she turns, Epicureans, Skeptics, and Stoics, spent time on urgent commonplace trials - 'fear of death, love and sexuality, anger and aggression - issues that are sometimes avoided as embarrassingly messy and personal by the more detached varieties of philosophy' pp.

They saw philosophy 'not as a detached intellectual technique dedicated to the display of cleverness but as an immersed and worldly art of grappling with human misery' p. The pursuit of messy subjects that sometimes embarrass us also typifies practical theologians.

For Paulsell, the intellectual life is itself a spiritual practice with repercussions for the betterment of human life in at least two ways: Inculcating appreciation for intellectual work as a 'way of reading on behalf of the world' p. Years ago, Browning said, 'we will never have an adequate practical theology unless we first learn to reflect critically and think abstractly' Although his call to think abstractly seems like a strange recommendation for practical theology, perhaps he meant something similar to my argument in this essay for the validity of a distinction between practice and theory and for the value of theory.

Until recently, these conceptual questions have mostly interested philosophers.

But this is a discussion practical theologians need to have precisely because our pragmatic orientation to how theory and practice operate in the everyday offers fresh perspectives. Most theories about the theory-practice relationship present tidy answers, resolving what is actually a perpetually tumultuous relationship between theory and practice when encountered on the ground.

What is often missing is a dynamic analysis of how theory functions in practice. The theory-practice problem is not merely hypothetical; it has implications for faith and ministry in concrete contexts. There is, in short, a need for more analysis of how theory and practice function dynamically in practice and for fresh appreciation for the complications of their pragmatic relationship.

Acknowledgements Competing interests The author declares that she has no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced her in writing this article. Nice, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Descriptive and strategic proposals, Fortress, Minneapolis, MN. An interview with David Tracy', America Examining six sub-disciplines', International journal of practical theology 12 1 An agenda for social change, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

The fragmentation and unity of theological education, Fortress, Philadelphia, PA.

the relationship between theory and practice back to classics

A mea culpa', Teaching theology and religion 8 4 Theological education as a reconstructive, hermeneutical, and practical task', Theological Education 23 3 An overview', Religion Compass 1 2 A comprehensive approach to religious education and pastoral ministry, Harper Collins, New York. Congregations and the seminary', Christian Century, Februarypp.

An empirical-oriented approach', in F. Linking faith and justice, Orbis, Maryknoll, NY. Three critical questions in the teaching and practice of pastoral care', in W. This model originally developed by T. Leary plays an important role in our teacher education program.

Apparently there is a gap between our words and his experiences, a gap that we cannot bridge. How to interpret a problem like this? And what can we do about it? In this article we will give two different interpretations of the problem, leading to two different plans of action. The interpretations arise not only from different perspectives on what the student teacher needs and what it is that we, teacher educators, are meant to offer.

They also spring from larger, predominantly tacit conceptions on what knowledge is and what different types of rationality exist. This is essentially a philosophical theme, and a long standing controversy as well. Discussion of it dates back as far as the beginning of western philosophy, particularly Plato and Aristotle.

We will start our analysis with a rough sketch of their different conceptions of knowledge, in connection to our problem. One might ask here for the point of excavating such antique viewpoints. Are we not nowadays far ahead of them? Haven't we made too much progress in years to return to the very beginning of the debate? As a matter of fact: Twenty-five centuries ago the same type of problems, now confronting teacher educators, were thoroughly studied by philosophers, resulting in a fruitful theoretical framework.

Most modern researchers are not aware of this fact. Recently, however, some scholars have started to dig up these roots. Let us see what this enterprise has to offer to our problem. What we need to solve the problem and help the student overcome his difficulties is some form of expert knowledge on this particular problem: This knowledge ideally is connected to a scientific understanding of the problem and shows the following characteristics.

It is propositional, i. These assertions are of a general nature, they apply to many different situations and problems, not only to this particular one. They are consequently formulated in abstract terms.

Of course these propositions are claimed to be true, preferably their truth is even provable, or at least they can be considered as part of a theory, with which they are consistent, giving an indication of their truth. Because they are true they are also fixed, timeless and objective.

And through their link with theory they are part of the more extended domain of social science. Besides they are fully cognitive in nature, they are purely intellectual insights, unaffected by emotions or desires.

It is this knowledge that is considered of major importance, the specific situation and context being only an instance for the application of the knowledge. It will not be difficult to recognize these characteristics as aspects of 2 Cf. Both requirements are in practice very difficult to fulfil.

The knowledge is supposed to be provided by the research literature on teacher education and social science. But what knowledge is relevant in this case? That is the first problem for a teacher educator. Is it a theoretical model of interpersonal behaviour? Is it Watzlawick's 4 systems theory? Is it some motivation theory from the domain of social psychology? These are general, abstract and widely accepted distinctions with such a strong theoretical basis that they may be considered as fixed truths.

Then there is a second problem for the teacher educator: Should the teacher educator plainly introduce the distinctions and ask the student to apply them to his own behaviour? Or should he try to approach the distinction inductively, by asking questions about the precise behaviours of the student?

the relationship between theory and practice back to classics

Suppose his own diagnosis of the problem is in accordance with Watzlawick's systems perspective: Of course there may be other ways of approaching and handling the problem. But whatever way the teacher educator chooses, his underlying conception of knowledge may stay the same, namely that there is a fixed solution to be found by subsuming the example under a scientific theory of effective teacher behaviour.

the relationship between theory and practice back to classics

The problem is to get the student to see this. Here we have a gap between theory and practice, that hampers both the teacher educator and the student.

The task of the teacher educator is to try to bridge it, and like our student he often fails. However, in this line of thinking this is not so much considered to be a failure of the theory, of the available knowledge itself, but either a failure of practice the way of handling the knowledge or of the present incompleteness of the available knowledge in the social sciences.

In other words, the parallel to learning mathematics - so dominant in Plato's conception of knowledge - is never really abandoned: How could it be if this knowledge is provably and objectively true, like in mathematics? The problem is in the users of the knowledge.

If the teacher educator in this case could possibly have been a more ideal teacher educator, 3 An excellent introduction to Plato is Irwin This is an essentially different type of knowledge, not concerned with scientific theories, but with the understanding of specific concrete cases and complex or ambiguous situations.

The two types of knowledge differ in a few crucial aspects. Whatever we know in a scientific way holds good generally. But the things that are the concern of practical prudence are variable by nature. For instance, although Watzlawick's theory may hold generally, the action that would be the right one for our student in the example to perform, still "admits of much variety and fluctuation of opinion", like all "fine and just actions", as Aristotle says.

This does not 8 mean that prudence, practical wisdom, would not involve any general rules. But "it must take into account particular facts as well, since it is concerned with practical activities, which always deal with particular things. That is precisely the problem that both the student and the teacher educator experience. They need something else to overcome it. This 'something else' is a knowledge of a different kind, not abstract and theoretical, but its very opposite: Which implies a second difference between scientific and practical knowledge, one concerning their 'locus of certitude'.

With scientific knowledge that certitude lies in a grasp of theoretical notions or principles. In practical prudence, certitude arises from knowledge of particulars. All practical knowledge is context-related, allowing the contingent features of the case at hand to be, ultimately, authoritative over principle. This is, according to Aristotle, the 10 reason "why people who lack a grasp of general ideas are sometimes more effective in practice".

So to find a solution to the 11 problem of our example, we may not have to look for help in some theoretical domain, but rather in the concrete details of the case. For a summary of the platonic conception cf.

Nicomachean Ethics a,b. In science, knowledge is essentially conceptual: In the realm of practical knowledge, the situation is quite different. This is a crucial difference. Let us take our example again to illustrate it.

Ultimately the appeal is to perception. For to be able to choose a form of behaviour appropriate for the situation, one must above all be able to perceive and discriminate the relevant details.

These cannot be transmitted in some general, abstract form. They "must be seized in a confrontation with the situation itself, by a faculty that is suited to confront it as a complex whole.

The latter "fail to capture the fine detail of the concrete particular, which is the subject matter of. They 14 lack not only concreteness, but also flexibility, subtlety and congruency to the situation at hand. Aristotle uses a vivid metaphor to illustrate this point. He tells us that a person who attempts to make every decision by appealing to some antecedent general principle, kept firm and inflexible for the situation, is like an architect who tries to use a straight ruler on the intricate curves of a fluted column.

Instead, the good architect will, like the builders of Lesbos, measure with a flexible strip of metal that "bends round to fit the shape of the stone and is not fixed". Good deliberation, like this ruler, accomodates itself to what it 15 finds, responsively and with respect for complexity. It does not assume that the form of the rule governs the appearances; it allows the appearances to govern themselves and to be normative for the correctness of the rule. For if they can be made precise and complicated enough, they will be adequate to capture in a fine-tuned way the complexities of concrete, experienced situations.

But this objection misses the full force of Aristotle's criticism of universal, conceptual knowledge. In his view, practical choices cannot even in principle be 12 Jonsen and Toulmin, Nicomachean Ethics a.

Here and in the next paragraphs I follow Nussbaum. And the matter at hand, the matter of the practical, is imprecise by nature. It calls 16 "for responsiveness and yielding flexibility, a rightness of tone and a sureness of touch that could not be adequately captured in any general description", Nussbaum adds.

Therefore the 18 demands of justice go beyond the rules of law. Justice can be done in practice only if nomos - rule-governed law - is supplemented by epieikeia or equity, i.

This does not make the general statement a 19 wrong law: When the law lays down a general rule, and a later case arises that is an exception to the rule, it is then appropriate, where the lawgiver's pronouncement was too unqualified and general, to decide as the legislator himself would decide if he had been present on this occasion.

The essential nature of equity is thus to correct the law in situations where it is defective on account of its generality. But it is much more important to know enough of the concrete details of the situation. For first it has to be decided whether here Watzlawick's rules are relevant at all, or if perhaps some other rules are more suited to the situation. Besides, it may be difficult to decide what rules are relevant here or even whether there are any general rules available at all.

In all these cases, however, perceptual knowledge is the basis for a proper judgement of the situation and for an appropriate choice of behaviour.

Mind you, the perception that Aristotle speaks of is not just the normal sensory perception. It is the 'eye' that one develops for paradigmatic or type cases.

In unambiguous, paradigmatic cases we can perceive an action as effective teacher behaviour as directly as we can recognize that a figure is triangular or square: Given such perception, no further proof or theoretical justification is needed.

For particulars only become familiar with experience, with a long process of perceiving, assessing situations, judging, choosing courses of action, and being confronted with their consequences. This generates a sort of insight that is altogether different from scientific knowledge. Of course experience is precisely what the student in our example lacks. So he cannot possibly have the corresponding sort of insight. But the point is here that such insight cannot possibly be transferred to him or induced, provoked, elicited through the use of purely conceptual knowledge.

There are many reasons for this, but the reason that concerns us here is that conceptual knowledge is not the type of knowledge that we need most in our case. It is too abstract, too much stripped of all kinds of particulars that are predominant in concrete experience: The appropriate criterion for correct choice in an example like ours is not its correspondence or consistency with an abstract rule or principle like: