LectureHop: MiMoo Helps Humanities Kids Feel OK About Their Majors
Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog is all about public service. You didn’t wake up for Michelle Moody-Adams required CC coursewide lecture; we did! When your professor asks you what MiMoo spoke about, you will have answer! You’ll also know what to say when your parents hound you for being a sociology major. Theory is important, too!
Poor, tired masses of CC sophomores assembled in Roone Friday morning to hear new-Quigley, Michelle Moody-Adams, lecture on the theory/practice divide. Moody-Adams, who may well be as adorable and inspiring as the venerable Quigley, took the podium and introduced theory as a “nagging concern.” She quoted Hannah Arendt, who declared that modern thought is “haunted” by the tension between theory and practice. So, MiMoo asked, what is a theory? Well, she explained, a theory is a claim that abstracts from and generalizes about some aspect of experience or ordinary practice. Theories must assist us in pursuing the following aims: explaining observations, understanding concepts that structure observations and basic beliefs, predicting future events, and acting in a way that conforms to the best and deepest understanding of the world. Urban studies degree, coming right up, Mom and Dad!
MiMoo continued with a slide quoting Yogi Berra, the baseball player famous for his thick-headed “malapropisms.” Yogi quote #1 of the lecture: “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.” Using this quote as a jumping off point, Moody-Adams listed a few complaints about theories that she deemed actually worth exploring. She acknowledged concerns that some theories seem too remote from practice, that some domains of inquiry generate too many (often conflicting) theories and that some theories are so limited by their cultural/historical origins that they cannot be useful in other contexts. Then MiMoo slowly, methodically soothed the souls of all Humanities students everywhere.
Just theorizing about theories can be useful alone, MMA claimed. Part of the power of non-scientific theories is that they provide the opportunity to contemplate different conceptions of what it is to be human, she explained, so then even if you never agreed with the theory, it had done something as important as what a theory in science can do.
Still, how do we the address attainability gap? Leading a good life (eudaimonia! Hai, Plato…) is just hard, she reassured us. Defining and protecting defensible forms of social and political organization is even harder. There can be value in a sincere effort to conform to a standard, even if we are not satisfied with our effort, or if we are unsure of our capacity to conform.
What else can we do to bridge the theory/practice divide? First, acknowledge intrinsic value of theories that may not yield immediate practical results. We must also allow that process of contemplating a theory may be central to the process of cultivating good judgment (a good reason to actually read CC, MiMoo whispered). Finally, we have to accept that the value of moral aspirations that may outstrip our known powers to meet them.
Moody-Adams finished with a defense of Dead White Men, who she dubbed “all the usual suspects” of CC. Even though the Core has expanded its intellectual and cultural reach beyond the West, the theories and arguments we grapple with continue to be worth our while! Why don’t we read texts more directly related to the nebulous and scary future? Well, she said, quoting Berra again: “the future ain’t what it used to be.”