First of all, sorry for the lengthy body of the question. A little background: I'm a musician, and an active thinker. In my career there's a seemingly inevitable bifurcation: the path of academic music or the path of popular music. The former is profoundly rigorous (although in some senses flexible... modernism is responsible here), and has a solid theory. The latter is more flexible and relies more on hearing and musical practice.

The problem is: the paths are more or less opposites. This pattern is common to every form of art, with pretty much the same categories. I've noticed similar patterns in non-artistic areas too, such as low- vs high-level programming, fundamental vs axiomatic mathematics, fundamental vs applied physics, traditional vs western medicine...

All of these pairs have something in common: one of them accepts a system of methodology and founds a vast practice on them, taking some cultural or contextual transformations along the way. The other one is constantly doubting its own premises and proposing new methods and practices (which, being fair, many times are more inefficient than their pragmatic counterparts) based on theories and profound knowledge of the field.

I see a connection to Kenneth's "complexity paradox", with "the more we know, the more questions we have." But the more questions we have, the less we dive into practical or pragmatic methods. It seems to me that the more we rely on the theory, the less we train on useful practice. Also, the more we practice, the less we are interested in theoretic approaches, adopting some kind of "shut up and do it" mindset. Within each field, we have those two opposite approaches.

So, finally, the question:

Is this paradoxical behaviour inherent to human gnoseologic understanding? Is there any philosopher who attempted to study this problem? Is it possible to adopt an epistemological mindset that allows these biases to be avoided?

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    According to Kant, all we can do is keep at the discipline of our reasoning when navigating between horns of antinomies; there's no magic failsafe that, once activated, puts an end to the "danger." I.e. recognize that there's a dilemma, watch the waters so neither Scylla nor Charybdis devour you, and go from there; and then keep going, as new monsters rise from the depths. Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 17:23
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    @KristianBerry do you rememeber which of Kant's works you are citing here? Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 18:36
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    Yes, the place where he says that transcendental illusions never go away, and then, "The Discipline of Pure Reason". Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 18:40
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    Human perceived countably enumerable regularities though in huge amount and very applicable to the far yonda may very well be an illusion as hinted by the perennial philosophy from the East to the West, no metaphysical or scientific theory so far proves complexity is not an inherent feature of the immanent nature or the transcendent Platonic realm if it exists... Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 19:08
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    "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is." - Yogi Berra
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 22:16

1 Answer 1


I suspect a wide range of factors lead to the outcome you have described, including social, economic and psychological. In most areas of human intellectual activity- such as music, literature, physics, architecture medicine, manufacturing- there are people who focus on questioning and developing the underlying ideas and people who implement or exploit those ideas. In literature, there are academics who analyse literary forms and authors who make money from writing books. In medicine there are people engaged in medical research and others who care for patients. In physics there are people who are concerned with developing the foundations and others engaged in the practical applications of well-established principles. Are those splits paradoxical in some way? It seems reasonably self-evident, to me at least, that they are in part the result of the breadth and complexity of the subject matter, but only in part. Human activity is organised according to other considerations too, including efficiency, the desire to make money, and established organisational structures. Take the electronics industry. There are people engaged in fundamental research in condensed matter physics and people who put talking silicon chips in greeting cards. Why are those activities segregated in the way they are? I would say it is the result of market forces operating in the context of the way in which our establishments are structured, rather than being an essentially gnoseological effect.

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