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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


GOOSEN, Danie. Theoretical life: Perspectives from tradition. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2011, vol.51, n.4, pp.490-506. ISSN 2224-7912.

The article sets out with the observation that contemporary debates on the nature of universities are marked by a conspicuous absence of references to the so-called "theoretical life" as understood by traditional philosophy. Nowadays universities rather tend to focus on practical issues (strategic planning, marketing, networking, etc.). The question raised in this article concerns the reasons behind the modern and postmodern preference for the practical at the expense of the high regard tradition had for a life dedicated to theoretical questioning. The answer hinted at relates to the widely different ontologies in the background of the respective positions mentioned. It is argued that the traditional emphasis on the importance of theory presupposes an ecstatic ontology that tends to view being as an ecstatic journey reaching out from the particular to the universal, from the parts to the whole, but also from the practical to the theoretical. The modern preference for the practical presupposes a radical shift in ontological focus: in modernism being is continuously reduced to a lowest common denominator. This ontological plummeting has had a dramatic effect on our understanding of the relationship between theory and practice: Henceforth theory as a guide in our search for wisdom is done away with, while the practical is reduced to nothing but a pragmatic, utilitarian or power-driven tool in order to control being.

Keywords : Theory and practice; ecstatic ontology; potentiality; modern ontology; postmodern ontology.

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