From The Information, by James Gleick: A theory is an algorithmic compression of data. That is, a theory is short-hand for a large body of data that provides us with a body of rules or operations that allow us to generate data. To this, I would add that a good theory allows us to generate “theorems” or propositions that allow us to broaden the theory or develop new methods of data compression. Maybe this is what I find frustrating about so much Continental philosophy. We end up talking about the philosopher and his work, rather than deploying the algorithms. Rather than the economy of data compression, we instead get an ever expanding list (ie, commentary). But philosophy shouldn’t be about philosophy but what philosophy is about. A theory ought to be used to generate data and theorems. It ought not be the data.
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