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.
The word has its roots in ancient Greek, but in modern use it has taken on several different related meanings.
A theory can be normative (or prescriptive),meaning a postulation about what ought to be. It provides “goals,
norms, and standards”. A theory can be a body of knowledge, which may or may not be associated with particular
explanatory models. To theorize is to develop this body of knowledge.
As already in Aristotle’s definitions, theory is very often contrasted to “practice”
(from Greek praxis, p?????) 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 characterized
by the word ‘hypothesis’). Scientific theories are distinguished from hypotheses, which are individual
empirically testable conjectures, and scientific laws, which are descriptive accounts of how nature will
behave under certain conditions
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