Why theory is ideological?
Muse #271 - it is easy (human) to be otherwise
I never used to believe in developing good theory. And as my journey as a change agent progressed, I started believing that “good theory” is the starting point for change, and everything one does need to be “theory-informed practice”.
But, along the way, I have flipped this belief and in recent times I have finally realized that we humans are “practice informed theorists” and poor ones at that. We are not deep theorists anyway - we are not built to be that. For the most part.
How come? My current Karl Popper (1902-1994) - “The myth of the framework” added to my repertoire to provide examples and stories about this change. For eg. let’s take learning to bike, or in my case learning to swim.
I started a little late. Around 40 that is. My kids were learning swimming and I wanted to learn it along with them. I bought a book on swimming (and from various internet sites) tried to learn the theory behind it. How one would not sink in water. Buoyancy. Strokes. Etc. Etc.
But the reality did not work like that. I went to the four-week courses four times before I could swim. For the most part, I sat in the shallow water. It finally took a leap of faith after understanding that my body would not sink for the most part if I let it go and relaxed. That turned things around. And I had learned this theory of swimming through practice.
But yet, even now, I can’t explain the theory or science behind swimming beyond a point. But, I can swim better than I can explain the theory. And that is practice informed theory. And the struggle is to codify the learning into theory, something embodied that is really codified only through practice.
Popper explained this well in just a few words. Or, possibly I am at a point of learning where these few words explain to me better than a lot of words since I have spent the better part of the last 10 years acquiring a variety of contexts and perspectives on various subjects so that it now makes it easier to connect with just a few words.
Karl Popper in a nutshell says that “The quality of human theory is as much as it is when it meets human psychology and intersects with human sociology” (my paraphrasing) - we dumb our theories down with our psychological biases and gross simplifications, and the theories stand up enough to the extent it can survive being processed (bastardized) by individuals and with the groups of humans, the theory interacts with.
It’s no wonder theory is ideological. Good theory emerges through practice. And the good theory is never easy to explain.