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Is there a difference between Theory and Philosophy? If so what is the difference?
Philosophy is a universal questioning of the meaning of statements. The way I understand it, Philosophy asks: what does it mean to say X? Theory is usually used to denote the critical theory of the early 20th century in Europe, The critical theorists concern was to create a theoretical edifice that described the best way to bring about a revolutionary change in the world that would free the working class from their socio-economic bondage.
If you are referring to theory in general, though, the difference between theory and philosophy is internal to philosophy itself. That is to say, theory is part of the way that philosophy reflects upon the meaning. Just refer to Marx's anti-theoretical thesis 11 in his Theses on Feuerbach. Marx writes: "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." The philosopher would reply: "Wrong. The first task today is precisely not to succumb to the temptation to act, to intervene directly and change things (which then inevitably ends in a cul-de-sac of debilitating impossibility: 'What can one do against global Capital?'), but to question the hegemonic ideological coordinates as such." In Marx's quote, theory is debilitated. In Zizek's quote, theory is rehabilitated.
There is a question however, of whether or not there is a distinction between theory and practice. John Dewey held that this distinction is false, since practice gives rise to theory and theory is often the basis of practice.
Philosophy seems to me to be what underlies theory, at least in Physics. Quantum Theory for example raised questions that required philosophical examination, such as the role of consciousness in creating reality. Theory was able to proceed without looking at these questions but only as mathematical formalism with a counterintuitive interpretation in reality.
A theoretical physicists tends to ask "how do I create a model that lets me calculate X" and a philosopher would ask "What does X mean and what sort of models could apply to X, come to that what is a model and what is calculation"
I see the two terms as unrelated. Josh Gathany's answer is very good. But neither term has a single meaning.
I define "philosophy" as "the field of study that asks questions about things that other fields generally take for granted." For example, science tends to assume that the physical world exists. Philosophy asks if it does. Religion tends to assume a certain position with regard to the idea of a God or Divine Being. Philosophy inquires into this.
A theory is a proposed explanation of something. There are theories in philosophy, in history, in literary criticism. A medical diagnosis is a theory. The clearest definition of the term "theory" comes in science. Science is the process of observing the world and trying to explain it in ways that make it predictable and give us some degree of control over our actions and their effects.
The scientific method progresses through steps. The first is observation. We look and describe what we are seeing. Then we ask "Why is this happening?" We come up with our first tentative answer, which is called a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an idea, a possibility, but it is below the level of a thesis, a clear statement of a theory. We may come up with several hypotheses.
We test our hypotheses with further observation and with experiments. We apply logic. Certain hypotheses are eliminated. How? Well, if they were true, then, in this situation or experiment, X would happen. But X did not happen.
A hypothesis that survives this testing and can't be disproven (yet) is a theory. It may be wrong. But so far, we have a lot of evidence that says it is not wrong.
So a theory is an explanation of how some part of the world works that has not yet been proven false.
If a theory lasts a long time and seems to have no exceptions, we call it a law. So the Law of Gravity (formulated by Newton and revised by Einstien) is a theory with no known exceptions and few gray areas.
So, philosophy is an area of inquiry. Theory is a statement about how the world works that is not yet proven false. (By the way, science cannot discover the truth; it can only come up with things that have not been proven false yet.)
In personal use, we say, "my philosophy" meaning "the way I look at life, my conclusions after some questioning." A person may say, "my theory," meaning "my explanation of this particular thing." In this usage, the terms are somewhat similar, but a person's philosophy is about the big picture; a theory is about something specific.
The word, "theory", means a system of ideas used to explain a specific thing. The word "philosophy" could mean a system of ideas to explain everything, or all studies except medical and scientific (i.e. 'doctor of philosophy'), or a theory of why things are the way they are. That is, a philosophy can be a theory but usually a theory is not a philosophy.
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