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Tag Archives: PRACTICE VS THEORY

Once you stop worrying about making designers feel good about themselves, it is very hard to still bother about almost everything that currently passes as «design theory». Not there aren’t issues and concerns that are theoretical and about design, there are aplenty and indeed they become more and more important and relevant in our mediated world. And now you can actually think about this stuff without trying to make it sound like design is oh so important. The disgusting part of it all is when you discover that, as soon as you start thinking about stuff that matters, designers stop paying attention — they just want to sound cool and thoughtful, but as for the “thinking” part of it, please keep it for yourself.

Paz & Gorm & Oliver & some other friends are all perplexed about mathematics. They think it is huge, and so important that all philosophy should just conform itself to Maths. The problem is, while they know that any data or knowledge can at best be an approximation and a simplification and a relative truth, they mysteriously miss the relativeness of Maths. And it is a shame, too, that they are perplexed, because Maths is such a simple, solved issue.

Well, today’s xkcd led me to the wiki on Collatz Conjecture, and there it is said that Paul Erdös said of a problem that revolves around “either divide by 2 or multiply by 3 and add 1” that “Mathematics is not yet ready for such confusing, troubling, and hard problems.” n= n%2 ? n/2 : n*3+1

Contrast to what a girl in the bus said to me 3 days ago, when i was ranting that philosophy is cool and that she only dislikes it because the teacher was not doing a good job and all. She said that no, she prefers Mathematics, because it is more practical.

Now, i am a bit problematic in the head, so maybe it IS just me, but… Doesn’t it all seem a little warped? Are we not expecting too much of Mathematics? Wanting it to be practical AND abstract AT THE SAME TIME? Does all of this even make sense at all?

A long time ago, arguing about theory and practice, and specifically defending that you can’t say “practice of practice”, i got to the awful feeling that something was being left out. My friend and i were not getting any closer to agreement, and i was guessing that was because we were not really discussing the values that made us believe in our arguments.

So, i came up with another dilemma. Instead of theory VS practice…

MEANING vs POWER

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A very common reaction to relativist claims is to discredit them as fancy musings without any real use or value. It is like saying that “Well, maybe so and so are not valid universally, but, who cares?” — implying that any abstractions are bound to be only valid into the distant realm of theory. This same bias paints “theory” as something distant and without substance. It says anyone involved with lots of ideas is bound to be a day-dreamer.

Contrary to popular belief, abstractions and theories are actually more practical than life without them, and “theoreticians” are the kind of people that are usually more focused on the matters at hand. Read More »