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Is the love of theory really the root of all evil?

So claims Bill Whittle in this insightful video:

First watched it yesterday when reviewing the Watchers’ Council submissions.  Bookworm, a blogress I had read on occasion before being invited to join the Council, submitted the link as her non-Council submission.  If she have a moment, check out her blog.   Since joining the Council, I have read her stuff more frequently and come to appreciate her unique insight into politics.

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9 Comments

  1. Hi Dan,

    the love of theory really the root of all evil?

    So, Bill Whittle loves his theory about the role of theory. And as for WWI, yes, one could say, it was due to a “love of theory” but one could look at the same situation, and say that the tactics used by Patton, 30 years later, was also due to the “love of theory”–a theory of warfare developed by theorists like Guderian and Rommel (whose theories had been informed by earlier theories concerning the usefulness of shock in WWI and combined arms), who also put their theory into practice in September 1939. So, deep ironies abound. Theories inform practice and practice inform theories. I like his statement about the role of evidence. His statement concerning Krugman is just bizarre (given that Krugman’s predictions, based on theory–failure of expansionary austerity, zero bound and lack of inflation–have evidence to support them…)
    But then, Mr. Whittle sure loves his theory about the role of theory… even when evidence doesn’t support him…

    Comment by Cas — May 4, 2012 @ 2:28 am - May 4, 2012

  2. Sound critique, Cas. Perhaps, we could offer a corollary then, saying that the real wisdom comes from blending theory to practice.

    Joseph Campbell said something about the need to learn the patterns of story-telling so you know how to break them. At least, I think that was Campbell.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — May 4, 2012 @ 2:30 am - May 4, 2012

  3. Hey… shouldnt you guys be asleep? Isn’t being tired due to lack of sleep and making bad decisions the next day the root of all evil????? (I saw it in a commercial so that must be true!).

    Comment by sonicfrog — May 4, 2012 @ 5:56 am - May 4, 2012

  4. Cas, you miss the point entirely. It is not theory that is the root of all evil, it is the love of theory. And you’re a Keynesian, so of course you are going to claim that there is evidence that supports Paul Krugman’s theories. The problem is, does the evidence suggest that Keynesianism is superior to the free market? You can’t cherry pick evidence that supports your theory, while ignoring all other evidence. Which is what Bill Whittle is talking about; if you love your theory, you will do or say anything to justify it. Theories should be based on evidence (i.e. the whole of all available evidence), and not other theories and cherry-picked evidence.

    Comment by Rattlesnake — May 4, 2012 @ 2:50 pm - May 4, 2012

  5. Hi RS,
    Sorry–I thought I had been clear that I said that Mr. Whittle is in love with his theory concerning the love of theory as the root of all evil (with all the ironic developments that goes on to imply). Clearly not. I hope I am clear now. I agree with your last claim, which is why I critiqued Mr. Whittle’s cherry picking of PK; or Patton’s WWII tactics (compared with WWI tactics), for that matter.

    Comment by Cas — May 5, 2012 @ 1:57 am - May 5, 2012

  6. Good catch, Rattlesnake, very good catch. He did say love of theory, not theory itself. (And that distinction is one reason I chose to post the video)

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — May 5, 2012 @ 2:07 am - May 5, 2012

  7. Sorry–I thought I had been clear that I said that Mr. Whittle is in love with his theory concerning the love of theory as the root of all evil

    You were perfectly clear. I just disagree with you; Mr. Whittle’s theory is heavily based on evidence, which he provides in the video. Therefore, there is no irony (assuming my premise is accepted). From my perspective, all available evidence overwhelmingly suggests Keynesian economics doesn’t work, so, again from my perspective, Paul Krugman is ignorant of that evidence due to his commitment to his Keynesian theory.

    Comment by Rattlesnake — May 5, 2012 @ 3:28 am - May 5, 2012

  8. Love of theory, in politics, is what gives us ideology, the domination of the political imagination by a single (or very limited) set of values. Justice as equality, by any means necessary, gives you our current liberalism in a nutshell.

    Comment by EssEm — May 5, 2012 @ 10:40 am - May 5, 2012

  9. Hi RS,

    You were perfectly clear. I just disagree with you;

    No worries. We agree to disagree.

    Comment by Cas — May 5, 2012 @ 3:09 pm - May 5, 2012

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