"theory vs practice" ceases power

Discussion in 'Ruby' started by Xah Lee, Jul 22, 2003.

  1. Xah Lee

    Xah Lee Guest

    Dear functional programing comrades,

    Among the community of automatons of the IT industry, there is a
    popular quote about "theory vs practice" that goes something along the
    lines of "in theory this, but in practice that", which is often quoted
    by automatons to slight at computer science principles or
    practice. (especially by perl or unix advocates)

    i'm posting the following in hope that "theory vs practice" can cease
    its misleading power. I seek your support in the education of IT
    automatons. Thanks.


    (Randal L. Schwartz) quoted:
    | The difference between theory and practice in theory is much less
    | than the difference between theory and practice in practice.

    Popular quotes have attributes of equivocal interpretation and
    theatrical display. When interpreted and pondered by the wise, it
    lights up a wisdom, but dullards quote them equally, and delight in
    their drama. (the latter happens a lot in Perl and unix communities.)

    From American Heritage Dictionary:
    theory n. pl. theories
    1. a. Systematically organized knowledge applicable in a relatively
    wide variety of circumstances, especially a system of assumptions,
    accepted principles, and rules of procedure devised to analyze,
    predict, or otherwise explain the nature or behavior of a specified
    set of phenomena. b. Such knowledge or such a system. 2. Abstract
    reasoning; speculation. 3. A belief that guides action or assists
    comprehension or judgment: rose early, on the theory that morning
    efforts are best; the modern architectural theory that less is
    more. 4. An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a

    The word 'theory', in practice, has more meanings than in theory.

    For example, in the above usage, 'theory' is used twice. In the first
    instance, it is used for a purpose but not for its meaning. It is part
    of a construction in a language that discuss the language itself. In
    theory it does not come up, but in practice it does all the time. In
    practice, we can say that the first instance of usage of the word
    'theory' has no meaning given the context. In the second appearance of
    the word, it has myriad of interpretations due to the construction of
    the phrase.

    People may mean: "The word 'theory', in practice, has more meanings
    than people would think." Here the word is thus used conveniently to
    stand for "mob's knowledge".

    From a logical linguist's mouth, the intent might be: "The word
    'theory', outside academia, acquire more meanings and purposes than we
    require in linguistics." The sensibility of such semantic content is
    demonstrated in the previous paragraph.

    People may say: "in theory, tomorrow'll rain." They really mean "the
    broadcast station lady said that tomorrow will rain."

    A detective might say, "in theory, that guy is the murderer.". He
    really means: "according to my investigations, it is highly probably
    that that guy is the murderer.". (dictionary definition #4.)

    In a strict sense, 'theory' means systematic and organized principles
    derived by scientific means (dictionary definition #1.). In a more
    strict mathematical sense, 'theory' is the body of theorems, and
    theorem by definition describes practices correctly always, else it is
    not a theorem. It is possible for a mathematical theorem to be
    incorrect (we are humans, after all), but in practice to assume that
    theorems can be incorrect is like assuming one might be hit by a
    meteor tomorrow. Theoretically correct, but not sensible.

    As you can see, the word 'theory' is subject to wanton abuses. In
    fact, all English words are subject to extraneous purposes to yield
    sentences or paragraphs that has a meaningful ambiguous
    interpretation. (this is how poetry works, in theory.) All in all,
    English is extremely malleable and ambiguous. The phrase "The word
    'theory', in practice, has more meanings than in theory" is really
    silly, except in really well-defined context. In our context, the
    quote amounts to illustrating the stupidity of Perlers who don't have
    a solid background in logic or linguistics, but like to quote about
    differences of theory vs. practice.

    Larry Wall likes to mention how he had a linguistics background, and
    how he utilized the (good) human qualities of English to create
    Perl. To the Perl folks of beady eyes, they are sold a grand advance
    in computer science, but to discerning eyes, it's artful garbage.

    Sorry i don't have time to address the above points of Wall's, but
    this will definitely be another lesson for you folks down the road.

    The perl folks with their beads of little eyes, cannot see beyond
    imperative languages.


    Xah Lee, Jul 22, 2003
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  2. Seems to have spammed most of comp.lang.*

    Didn't turn up in comp.lang.tcl though, yet!
    Peter Hickman, Jul 22, 2003
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  3. Peter Hickman <> wrote:
    > Seems to have spammed most of comp.lang.*
    > Didn't turn up in comp.lang.tcl though, yet!

    That's because they're a bunch of imperative running-dogs!

    Martin DeMello, Jul 22, 2003
  4. Albert Lai

    Albert Lai Guest

    Rudolf Polzer <> writes:

    > Scripsit ille aut illa »Xah Lee« <>:
    > > Larry Wall likes to mention how he had a linguistics background, and
    > > how he utilized the (good) human qualities of English to create
    > > Perl.

    > Haha... I cannot see that in Perl. Just because it uses some English
    > words, it shows linguistics background? Did Larry Wall invent SQL
    > or COBOL? *ducks*

    Larry Wall made those claims in public speeches. See for example
    The first one mentioned his linguistic background. The second one
    mentioned borrowing qualities from human languages.

    Whether he has successfully achieved what he said, you can have your
    opinion. But be it recorded that he did say those things.
    Albert Lai, Jul 23, 2003
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