21/09/17 Theory and practice. Ways of understanding, expressing and practicing looking at the world
The notion of theory stems from the Greek word theoria. For the ancient Greeks, theoria consisted of the act of seeing. The syllable thea lays the foundation for theatron, the Greek word for theatre, for the word theastai ‘to look at’ and the word theoros. The latter was connoted with different meanings. It could signify a person who looks for advice from an oracle, a person who announces a festival, a person who holds an authority in the polis or a spectator. On the one hand, one can argue that the meanings of theoros point to the relational and ethical aspect of theory. With theory, one positions oneself towards the community of the polis as well as the divine harmony of the cosmos. On the other hand, the meanings of theoros indicate that theory arises as specific event which is bound to a particular time and place in the polis. This coincides with the theatrical aspect of theory. In a modern perspective, one could say that through the lens of theory the Greeks read the polis as a theatre in which human and non-human actors express their logos. This reading leads to an interpretation of theory as a contemplative festival in which only those participate, that seek neither glory nor profit but merely seeing.
Oral presentation in the international workshop Urban Research Across the Theory-Practice Divide: Modes of Dialogue and/or Disengagement organised by Monika Grubbauer, History and Theory of the City, HCU Hamburg and is funded jointly by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the ZEIT-Stiftung.