Understanding where we are.
In every situation, we use theory to see patterns and tendencies, discern trajectories (insofar as that’s possible) and decide on appropriate responses and strategies—to determine on any given day whether it‘s better to feign compliance, take up arms, or stay in bed with the blankets over our heads. We might still manage to fight the enemy even if we’re not in control of the theories guiding us, but we’ll be blindfolded, flailing in all directions. Emotion sets us in motion, and willpower fuels us, but without navigational tools we’re lost.
Theory is the topography of our strategic map, determining our starting point and destination, where we lay down paths, and how we focus and direct our energy. At the start of our journey, we don’t need to get bogged down in ultra-complicated minutiae…better to zoom out for an overview of the major contours. As we develop our theoretical skill (which takes practice, like anything else), we can zoom in to explore ever more detailed levels of abstraction. One can pursue any concept to infinite complexity, but first we should sketch some basic outlines.