Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Practical and theoretical beliefs

Aristotle distinguished between practical and theoretical beliefs. A practical belief, such as 'fire can burn you', is rooted in experience - disbelieving it has real consequences; the theoretical belief 'the Sun goes round the Earth' delivers no consequences unless you're an orbital mechanics engineer.

Many beliefs propagated through formal education (particularly in the social sciences) are theoretical and that's why so much wish-fulfillment goes unchecked. Theoretical beliefs only become practical when they have consequences which impact upon the believer; they say a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged.

Up to my late thirties, I had a lazy, egalitarian-socialist political philosophy in which I was strongly (or so I thought) opposed to paid medical care.

'No queue jumping!' I said to myself and to others.

In 1989 I had a really bad, painful attack of hemorrhoids while working on assignment in Italy (heritability 56% to 61% - my father also suffered) and found that my Nortel company medical scheme would pay for an immediate operation. The wait for NHS treatment would have been months and I would have found airport-hopping telecoms consultancy difficult while in graded varieties of pain.

What did I do?

I considered the matter for just a few hours - I would say for the first time in seriousness - and queue-jumped.


  1. What was this assignment in Italy? Was there a link with e.g. weight lifting or similar activity (e.g. physical movement of telecoms boxes?).

    Oddly I think that my last overseas trip with BNR/Nortel was to Barcelona in the early 1990s. Perhaps they were fomenting revolution... (?)

    1. It was an ESPRIT European research project with the university at PISA, something to do with computer-supported cooperative working I think.


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