Konubinix' opinionated web of thoughts

Experience vs Theory Fallacy


Sometimes in discussion, I hear people claiming that one has to make per own experience, someone else claims that one has to rely on the experience of others.

I think it often uses the black or white fallacy, where

  • one in favor of experience argues that there are some things that theory cannot teach (see hard problem of consciousness),
  • another in favor of theory argues that there are some pretty dangerous experiments (like jumping out a window) and therefore one should listen to another’s wisdom,

Here, they need to take a step back and realize that there are plenty of alternatives, like

  • making one own experience in an environment controlled by people that have had experience (see driving school),
  • using theory to have reasonable predictions about the outcome and experiment only when the likely negative outcome seems sensibly low.

Actually, I think that this separation experience vs theory is also showing the sign of some misunderstanding about how we build knowledge.

Every experimentation is based on some theoretical basis and every theoretical basis is based on experience. Seeing objects fall leads to guess that all objects falls (theory), that leads to some experiments about how object falls that leads to theory about the dynamic of falling object that leads to … In other terms, theory helps designing experiments and experience helps designing a theory. Those should not be separated in some binary thinking (scientific method fallacy)

Also, I decided to believe that predicting the failure out loud anchors the actors in seeing the failure and move towards it. I guess that stating that « you will fail if you do that » puts the actor in the mental predisposition of failing.

Notes linking here