|So, I tried to do a kind of semantic clarification in which praxis—if not on the thither side of this divide—was perhaps somehow between the theoretical and the practical as they are generally understood, and particularly as they are understood in modern philosophy. Praxis as the manner in which we are engaged in the world and with others has its own insight or understanding prior to any explicit formulation of that understanding...Of course, it must be understood that praxis, as I understand it, is always entwined with communication.
—Calvin O. Schrag
Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realised. "Praxis" may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas. This has been a recurrent topic in the field of philosophy, discussed in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Paulo Freire, Ludwig von Mises, and many others. It has meaning in the political, educational, and spiritual realms.
In Ancient Greek the word praxis (πρᾶξις) referred to activity engaged in by free men. Aristotle held that there were three basic activities of man: theoria, poiesis and praxis. There corresponded to these kinds of activity three types of knowledge: theoretical, to which the end goal was truth; poietical, to which the end goal was production; and practical, to which the end goal was action. Aristotle further divided practical knowledge into ethics, economics and politics. He also distinguished between eupraxia (εὐπραξία, "good praxis") and dyspraxia (δυσπραξία, "bad praxis, misfortune").
In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt argues that Western philosophy too often has focused on the contemplative life (vita contemplativa) and has neglected the active life (vita activa). This has led humanity to frequently miss much of the everyday relevance of philosophical ideas to real life. Arendt calls “praxis” the highest and most important level of the active life. Thus, she argues that more philosophers need to engage in everyday political action or praxis, which she sees as the true realization of human freedom. According to Arendt, our capacity to analyze ideas, wrestle with them, and engage in active praxis is what makes us uniquely human.
"Arendt's theory of action and her revival of the ancient notion of praxis represent one of the most original contributions to twentieth century political thought." "Moreover, by viewing action as a mode of human togetherness, Arendt is able to develop a conception of participatory democracy which stands in direct contrast to the bureaucratized and elitist forms of politics so characteristic of the modern epoch."
Paulo Freire defines praxis in Pedagogy of the Oppressed as "reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it." Through praxis, oppressed people can acquire a critical awareness of their own condition, and, with their allies, struggle for liberation.
In the Channel 4 television documentary "New Order: Play At Home", Factory Records owner Tony Wilson describes praxis as "doing something, and then only afterwards, finding out why you did it".
Praxis is also used in schools of community education, basically, practice and reflection.
Praxis is also key in meditation and spirituality, where emphasis is placed on gaining first-hand experience of concepts and certain areas, such as union with the Divine, which can only be explored through praxis due to the inability of the finite mind (and its tool, language) to comprehend or express the infinite. In an interview for YES! Magazine, Matthew Fox explained it this way:
- Wisdom is always taste—in both Latin and Hebrew, the word for wisdom comes from the word for taste—so it's something to taste, not something to theorize about. "Taste and see that God is good," the psalm says; and that's wisdom: tasting life. No one can do it for us. The mystical tradition is very much a Sophia tradition. It is about tasting and trusting experience, before institution or dogma.
According to Strong's Hebrew dictionary, the Hebrew word, ta‛am, is; properly a taste, that is, (figuratively) perception; by implication intelligence; transitively a mandate: advice, behaviour, decree, discretion, judgment, reason, taste, understanding.
While praxis usually refers to the process of putting theoretical knowledge into practice, the strategic and organizational usage of the word emphasizes the need for a constant cycle of conceptualizing the meanings of what can be learned from experience in order to reframe strategic and operational models.
- Ramsey, Ramsey Eric; Miller, David James (2003). Experiences between philosophy and communication: engaging the philosophical contributions of Calvin O. Schrag. SUNY Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-7914-5875-4. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- Aristotle, NE, VI, 5, 1140b7.
- Krancberg, Sigmund (1994), A Soviet Postmortem: Philosophical Roots of the "Grand Failure", Rowman & Littlefield, p. 56.
- Yar, Majid, "Hannah Arendt (1906—1975)", The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- Fry, Karin, "Arendt, Hannah" in Women-philosophers.com.
- d'Entreves, Maurizio Passerin (2006), "Hannah Arendt", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- Kolb, D., "David A. Kolb on experiential learning", Informal Education Encyclopedia.
- Freire, P. (1970), Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Herder and Herder, p. 33.
- Freire, P. (1986), Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, p. 36.
- Holy Impatience: an interview with Matthew Fox, YES! Magazine.
- The dictionary definition of praxis at Wiktionary
- Entry for "praxis" at the Encyclopaedia of Informal Education
- Der Begriff Praxis