Mathematical Practitioners, Mixed Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Early Modern Europe
“Theory and practice” is one of those dichotomies that is so entrenched in our thinking that we cannot overcome it, although its shortcomings are often felt. Just like “content and form,” “material and ideal,” etc., the distinction between “theory” and “practice” is very hard to reconceptualize and it is usually left untouched, since everyone appears to have a grasp on what it means. Historians face a similar situation when they try to avoid notoriously misleading categories like “empiricism” or “rationalism,” but end up using them, since they provide the comfortable orientation implied by the utmost familiarity. They seem to be almost inescapable and sometimes the new terms that are designed to replace them actually presuppose them already.