‘Theoretical means impractical’ is the basic premise of all cracker-barrel schools of wisdom. It just proves that their theories bear no relation to laws of nature. If a theory isn’t practical, it should be wrong. Why should anyone flirt with impractical notions? Such thoughts never occur to them. If their theories are impractical, it is not their theories which are wrong; it is the very abstraction ‘theory’ itself. Presumptuously, they say “To hell with all theories.” Another aspect of this notion is that social acceptability is held as the gauge of an idea’s practicality. Should practicality of a theory be assessed by it’s relation to reality or by the assessment of the man on the street? Were Galileo, Lavoisier and Socrates impractical? No answer!
Marx’s theories are a case in point. He derived his theorems from Hegel’s dialectical mysticism & when refuted by all economists, he scoffed stating logic is determined by class affiliation. So much for their assertion that Marxism was scientific and reason based! What is more offensive? We hear from the ‘Capitalist’ that ‘Socialism was good in theory, but as we all know, it didn’t go that well in practice.” When the Socialist shamelessly clings to his ideology, the ‘Capitalist’ assures him his theory was good. It was only that it didn’t go well in the hands of their power hungry leaders. What more could be done to strengthen his weakened spirit? He’s now all set to go on imagining new utopias headed by a much more benevolent dictator- himself.
A new variant of utopianism is Noam Chomsky’s Anarcho-Communism. It’s hard for me to explore it in detail as he is irresponsibly vague about how things would go in his ideal world. Let’s safely assume that it’s an ideal world in which Chomsky has no reason to feel inferior & humiliated, where all men toil & share while the enthroned Chomsky sees to it that no one get’s more than the other. The usual argument against such utopias is that there is an incentive problem & things wouldn’t work that way. It even strengthens them. They argue they have much more faith in human nature & benevolence. Isn’t the greatest of all pleasures derived from work? We’ll not ask what benevolence leads them to place themselves on a pedestal, seize products of others creativity & share it among all. We’ll not ask who would do which work, who would direct the whole process & who would arbitrate the disputes. The basic economic fact these utopians ignore is that economic calculation would be impossible in such a society. There would be no means to know whether the resources are spent in the right manner or not when they do without the market & monetary system. We can’t go into such an economy without exterminating an overwhelming majority of the population. Socialism didn’t fail in practice. It failed in Economic theory & its very basics at that. All utopian societies including the mixed economy would suffer on the same account.
All utopian societies claim to bring about ‘Egalitarianism’. Even men who don’t nurture such thoughts agree ‘Egalitarianism’ is a good ideal. “Egalitarianism is all good in theory, but how would we go about it?” They ask. Even men who wouldn’t go that far agree everyone should be given ‘equal opportunity’ through Public funded education. We wouldn’t expatiate on the impossibility of egalitarianism. If all were equipped with the same skills, how would a division of labor society work? Wouldn’t we all perish in such a world? It is not that ‘Egalitarianism’ would fail in practice. It is that it should, as it had failed in theory. How good is an ideal which would bring about mass extermination? It is not that ‘egalitarians’ are idealistic. It is that they have no sane ideology.
There is no such thing as a theory without any practical applications. G.H. Hardy was of the opinion that Number theory has no practical applications whatsoever & that it had not served any war purpose. It was Number theory which paved the theoretical foundation for Cryptography & Theoretical Computer Science and it played a major role in World War II. It would have been a huge relief to these men fed upon Government grants & subsidies if they had realized the simple fact that there is no such a thing as impractical knowledge.
Hardy wasn’t alone in this regard. Mach, Poincare & Einstein too had expressed their deep suspicion of the fact that mathematical is an abstract science. How could it bear any relation to reality? Isn’t reality to be known by experience? Aren’t all theorems derived from an axiom implied in itself? All such arguments were refuted by experience. The fact that there is a huge time lapse in the practical implementation of mathematical theorems doesn’t prevent mathematicians from formulating their theories. We don’t call them impractical visionaries either.
Economics & Philosophy too are abstract sciences. It is not just Immanuel Kant’s anti-reason epistemology, which is undermining these Sciences today. How could an armchair theorist know facts of reality? What knowledge does an academic theorist have of social realities, say poverty? Aren’t all axioms arbitrary except their statement that it is so? It is such ‘sophisticated’ beliefs that led to the deterioration of Social Sciences. What these knuckleheads don’t realize is that Economics or History can’t be learned be observing what happens in a particular space & time. No one man’s experience is wide enough for that. Knowledge here is to be acquired by hard thought, acquainting oneself with all of humanities, mainly through reading.
All criticisms are met by aping physical sciences. Statistics, for instance, is employed in conventional Psychology and Economics. Any intelligent person can easily look upon this fact and question their methodology. Statistics say nothing at all of the underlying causes behind any crash or neurosis. A much more interesting dilettantism is the so called ‘Economic Forecasting’. It ignores the basic fact that men and their valuations change and no such forecasting is possible with absolute certainty. If they could, they would have made a fortune in the stock market.
‘Mathematical Economics’, growing pragmatism and ‘practicality’ are the other aspects of the previous century. Obviously, Mathematics has nothing to do with Economics and anyone who states otherwise is confessing his colossal ignorance of both Sciences. It has now become fashionable to state Economic theorists know nothing at all of the market system like businessmen do & men who know better should be appointed in their place. No one with the slightest knowledge of the subject can entertain such idiocies. Linguistic analysis, headed by Chomsky is the new kid on the block. Linguistics Analysts themselves have no idea what they are talking about and keep things vague, so that it is hard to explode their fallacies.
Pseudo-Intellectuals have brought shame to the abstraction, ‘theory’. It is a pity that these hoodlums have duped the public for so long a time & have perverted the very term ‘intellectuals’. It is not that they are lost in theories; it is only that they have never known what theory means. It is not that they are impractical idealists, it is only that they have a worn out ideology. It is not that they think too much, it is only that they think too little. It is not that they read too much, it is only that they never paused to learn that their fallacies were exploded long before. They would have solved most of their problems if only they had taken to the task of learning from old theorists they profess to scorn.
A revolt against these ‘intellectuals’ can be seen as the other side of the same coin-Men denouncing all theory and learning through experience. The much lauded best seller of Thomas Friedman, ‘The World is Flat’ is a case in point. An experience is better than 1000 theories’, says Friedman. He is said to have travelled round the world to gain that experience. Experience, but is no substitute for intelligence, hard thought and analysis. Friedman is all praise for Outsourcing, but nowhere does he stops to think of the underlying cause-Immigration barriers and restrictions. The same attitude can be seen in journalists of the same orientation. They are incapable of their task no matter how much they move around and experience first hand, if they are incapable of conceptualizing.
These so called ‘practical men’ are the most impractical and despicable of all beings. They say theoretical shouldn’t always mean practical as if it were their theory-Without giving a moments thought to the fact that practice is simply, theory put in action. They say they are good at analysis, but not in factual knowledge without giving a moments thought to the fact that it is the very facts that one has to analyze. They say creativity is more important than knowledge not knowing creativity means connecting the unconnected-And that, to connect the unconnected, one should know what the unconnected are. They say senses are incapable of knowing anything other than the fact that our senses are insufficient-They learn process & spout it through their very senses. They say they have no principles other than the principle that one shouldn’t have any. They say right and wrong are a matter of perceptions as if they were right in saying so. As a last resort, they say arguments are a weak man’s weapon as if it were an argument. All arguments of the ‘practical man’ contradict the very same statement. They would now argue, a contradiction doesn’t obviate its invalidity, which means a theory could be true & false at the same time and disproves beyond doubt all their objections. How I wish I could summon enough anger to denounce them!
John Dewey’s ‘progressive education’, lauded by all left liberals too states practice & communication skills should take precedence over theory. It obviates the hatred leftists have against human mind and concept formation and that their claim to reason and theory was just a farce. The revolt against conceptual thought is now expressed through the statement that it is communication skills which matter more than cognition. It is said, Schools and colleges should pay more stress on ‘soft skills’ to prepare children for ‘routine-bound jobs’. They don’t explain why this socializing can’t be done at the neighborhood club or candy store. All their arguments would inevitably founder over these simple, but devastating questions: Which hotel would you choose- one which provides the best food, or the one run by a man with the greatest of communication skills? If so, which doctor would you go to? You who seek it in the man you owe a day’s survival, why do you not seek it in the man who ought to save your life? Why do you not seek it in the businessmen who make our entire lives possible? Why do you persist in being irrational here?
A similar variant of men’s hatred of abstractions is the argument that Science & Technology should take precedence over Liberal Arts. It is true that technological innovations are the root of progress. It is true that a vast majority of the students are incapable of a career in Social Sciences & would be better off if they train themselves for a run of the mill job. It is, but, only a fogbound moron who would argue technological progress could be achieved without any wider ideological context. We owe it to them the fact that beneath all his gadgets man has a medieval serf’s mindset. Any country’s progress can be traced back to its constitution, economic policies and underlying philosophy. It is the ideology, the theory that guides practice and not the other way round.
Students now take pride in proclaiming knowledge acquisition is not of their concern. Their approach is ‘Ready, Fire!’ They say their aim is to make money, not realizing money is the payment one receives for a trade, and the root of all materials one trade is human thought and mind. The most ridiculous of their pronouncements is implied in the alleged knowledge-creativity dichotomy. Hasn’t cognitive Psychology taught him that Left brain handles logic and memory and the right brain, creativity? This much was enough for him, though he hates creative instinct of any sort. It never occurs to him that creativity doesn’t come out of a vacuum. He may say bread and butter are his sole aim, but somewhere he has left an incommunicable resentment for a man’s healthy desire to make money.
Beneath all his pretensions, somewhere deep down he senses he had betrayed something he never should have & that it was his own mind. In the middle of the night when an anxiety strikes him, he stares into a vacuum & blinks. When he wakes up early in the morning, you see him moving ahead in a routine bound manner as he had groped in the darkness the night before. How is he supposed of being capable of anything else now?