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Title: Theory vs. Philosophy

Inspectah Ganesha - May 22, 2008 07:20 PM (GMT)
I'm posting my thoughts on the definitions of these words. Post your own thoughts, and I promise I'll read them. When someone proves me wrong, or mentions something I left out, I will synthesize our posts and come up with a new mech-post that will dominate all previous posts with its superior size and strength (and ability to define).

I think of theories as being specific ('evolution by natural selection' 'theory of relativity.' I feel like if I said, "I bet Jimmy's late because the trains are fucked up, not because he's purposely standing us up, Benjamin. But that's just my theory," I'd be using the word 'theory' correctly.

I'm pretty sure 'philosophy' has three usages. 1) philosophy is a realm of study, like 'biology, physics, psychology.' 2) philosophy is a general theory, as opposed to a specific one. 3) philosophy is a set of connected theories/philosophies.

back to 1) I'm sure everyone knows philosophy means 'love of knowledge.' Maybe it should be called 'sophology," because it is the study of knowledge. More specifically, philosophy deals with how knowledge is come to (epistemology) and how to apply knowledge (logic). Philosophy differs from many "ologies" in that it also deals not just with what is, but what should be.

Therefore, I can have philosophical differences with someone on three different levels.

a) Me and Plato disagree on the epistemological question. He thinks all of humanity's knowledge is stored in another realm, and whenever we think, we are plucking ideas from this realm. I think, simply, ideas are matter, and exist in people's heads, on paper, and in sounds waves that travel through the air as we talk to one another.

B) Although me and Noam Chomsky agree on the epistemological issue, we have differences in the application of our knowledge. Chomsky says that it would be incredible if children were able to grasp the intricacies of language and learn it in such a short time, just by listening to others speak, and that therefore, there must be some sort of universal grammar that is encoded in our DNA. I agree that it would be hypothetically incredible for children to learn language just by hearing others speak, and I extend it even further by saying, that shit is fuckin incredible.

c) I can agree with someone on how knowledge is come to (reading the news) and agree with them that life is a violent struggle for billions of people all over the world, but I'll disagree with qualitative statements like, "that's how it should be. Survival of the fittest." This is not, in my correct and not very humble opinon, how it should be. We can and should do much better.

2) The word philosphy is also used to mean a theory (or principle) that can be applied in more than one case. When i supposed that the train was late, that was a theory. But the reason i arrived at that theory was because of my philosophy that, "friends generally don't try to fuck over their friends. Therefore, when a friend is inconveniencing you, assume that it's not hizzer fault, until you receive more information." Another philosophy that is useful, when waiting for trains, is Epictetus' philosophy that, "you should not worry about things that are not under your control." So, instead of thinking about when the train is going to come, worry about something that is under your control, like whether or not your shoes are tied. That, of course, was a cute hypothetical. Really, you should read a book.

3) Lastly, philosophy is used to denote a set of ideas, like 'existentialism' or 'fascism." The philosophy 'Marxism' is perhaps the most comprehensive philosophy known to humanity. Marxism includes a theory of existence (materialism/physicalism). It includes a theory of the relationship between matter (dialectical materialism). And dialectical materialism covers the epistemological question. Marx developed the sub-philosophy of the 'superstructure' which explains how society works, down to why people hold the ideas that they hold ("it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness" and that our social existence is predominantly influenced by our economic mode of production, but that there's a dialectical relationship between consciousness, social relationships and ecnomic relationships). Marxism also includes the application of this "superstructure" to the examination of history (historical materialism). And finally, Marx used his philosophy of 'historical materialism' to not only develop the theory that the principal problem in the world is capitalism, but, even more importantly, he developed a solution: communism. And a way to get there: revolution.

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