Praxis — What is it good for?

“But what … is it good for?”
Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM in 1968, commenting on the microchip

Talking to very different scientists today, I was remembered of an image I saw in my mind some time ago. That there are scientists who are content (and successful) by standing on an island of theory, counting grains of sand. They see the ocean of praxis as unforgiving, often tempestuous, full of unknown and possibly dangerous creatures, and with a deep and slick bottom. Occasionally they dip their big toe into the water, but the second something touches their foot, they retreat and bury their toe into the warm sand. If forced, they do swimming motions on the shore and theorize about praxis, but they refuse to dive into the water.

Of course, if you try to swim, you might get lost, injured, or even drown. But you can also reach interesting shores and discover new lands — strange, new places not directly connected to the one you came from.

I wonder, is this view correct? Does praxis pose challenges that help scientists to move forward? Or are there scientists who should avoid the praxis, because it distorts or obfuscates? Is it different for (sub-)disciplines? For stages in research? For stages in knowing?

Categories: Doing Science, Science


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