Theory is a contemplative and rational type of abstract or generalizing thinking, or the results of such thinking. Depending on the context, the results might for example include generalized explanations of how nature works, or even how divine or metaphysical matters are thought to work. The word has its roots in ancient Greek, but in modern use it has taken on several different related meanings.
One modern group of meanings emphasizes the speculative and generalizing nature of theory. For example in the arts and philosophy, the term "theoretical" may be used to describe ideas and empirical phenomena which are not easily measurable. And by extension of the philosophical meaning, "theoria" is also a word still used in theological contexts. As already in Aristotle's definitions, theory is very often contrasted to "practice" (from Greek praxis, πρᾶξις) a Greek term for "doing", which is opposed to theory because pure theory involves no doing apart from itself. A classical example of the distinction between theoretical and practical uses the discipline of medicine: medical theory involves trying to understand the causes and nature of health and sickness, while the practical side of medicine is trying to make people healthy. These two things are related but can be independent, because it is possible to research health and sickness without curing specific patients, and it is possible to cure a patient without knowing how the cure worked.
In modern science, the term "theory" refers to scientific theories, a well-confirmed type of explanation of nature, made in a way consistent with scientific method, and fulfilling the criteria required by modern science. Such theories are described in such a way that any scientist in the field is in a position to understand and either provide empirical support ("verify") or empirically contradict ("falsify") it. Scientific theories are the most reliable, rigorous, and comprehensive form of scientific knowledge, in contrast to more common uses of the word "theory" that imply that something is unproven or speculative (which is better defined by the word 'hypothesis'). Scientific theories are also distinguished from hypotheses, which are individual empirically testable conjectures, and scientific laws, which are descriptive accounts of how nature will behave under certain conditions.
Other articles related to "theory":
... Zermelo set theory, as set out in an important paper in 1908 by Ernst Zermelo, is the ancestor of modern set theory ...
... The most widely held theory is put forth by Marc Bloch ... This Germanic origin theory was also shared by William Stubbs in the nineteenth century ... Another theory was put forward by Archibald R ...
... Rushton's book Race, Evolution, and Behavior (1995) uses r/K selection theory to explain how East Asians consistently average high, blacks low, and whites in the middle on an ... He first published this theory in 1984 ... He theorizes that r/K selection theory explains these differences ...
... Minimax (sometimes minmax) is a decision rule used in decision theory, game theory, statistics and philosophy for minimizing the possible loss for a worst case (maximum loss) scenario ... Originally formulated for two-player zero-sum game theory, covering both the cases where players take alternate moves and those where they make ...
... It is useful to know if a statement or theory is falsifiable, if for no other reason than that it provides us with an understanding of the ways in which one might assess the theory ... One might at the least be saved from attempting to falsify a non-falsifiable theory, or come to see an unfalsifiable theory as unsupportable ... Popper claimed that, if a theory is falsifiable, then it is scientific ...
Famous quotes containing the word theory:
“every subjective phenomenon is essentially connected with a single point of view, and it seems inevitable that an objective, physical theory will abandon that point of view.”
—Thomas Nagel (b. 1938)
“The weakness of the man who, when his theory works out into a flagrant contradiction of the facts, concludes So much the worse for the facts: let them be altered, instead of So much the worse for my theory.”
—George Bernard Shaw (18561950)
“It makes no sense to say what the objects of a theory are,
beyond saying how to interpret or reinterpret that theory in another.”
—Willard Van Orman Quine (b. 1908)