The relativity of “theory”

The term “theory” today is often used to mean Postmodernism theory or just Postmodernism. And because of this Postmodernism is often accused of high jacking the term. But that is just plain wrong.

In acts of elitism this may have occurred a century ago and can be said to still be practiced today. The term “philosophy” could be seen as one such word. Today it represents only the Western tradition (Russell, Kant, etc) and quietly excludes Eastern thought (Confucius, Vasubandhu, etc) all together. But theory is somehow different.

Theory as a term to be used as a stand-alone term represents a set of values, those of Postmodern thought, and it was not used in this manner until Postmodernism came along. Through an act of defamiliarity it has gained momentum through usage. And there is nothing wrong with this. As Postmodernism labours to point out words only have meaning insofar as a series of differences.

A word can be said to be relative to all usage within a language or even against all languages. I do not see there is snobbery or elitist tendency in Postmodernism’s appropriation of the term, but rather it has been seen as misappropriation and that it is a misunderstanding of Postmodern thought and its non-hidden agenda. It is a case of theory of relativity as well as being the relativity of (the term) “theory”.

4 thoughts on “The relativity of “theory””

  1. Sure it is nice to quote Lao-tzu, but how many actually utilize Chinese philosophers and philosophy to counter its Western counterpart. It simply does not happen. They are separate and are kept separate.


  2. My college history professor, albeit a christian, quoted Lao Tzu that goes something like “one who knows everything is like a fool, for he has nothing to learn”. i think it was Lao Tzu.


  3. I am not so sure.

    When was the last time a modern or postmodern philosopher quoted Confucius, Lao Tzu or Sakyamuni? If you are talking about your Krisnamurti’s or Watts then yes they are coming from a Eastern perspective but they invariably then ignore the Western perspective.

    There is a divide.


  4. Last I checked, philosophy also often incorpoates Eastern views and thoughts. Some just confuse these thoughts with “religion”, but those like Confuscius, Lao Tsu, and Sakyamuni only meant to look for truth and dharma, not the creation of a new religion.


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