Infinite Praxis

Filed under: by: PBC

I must disagree with my esteemed colleague, and defend the word "action" and the various senses that have been attached to this multifarious, multivertebrate and multi-grained concept (I note this final adjective in the spirit of The Doctryne of Transcendental Nutritionalism). The Greek "praxis" is often translated into "action," but also frequents other hot-spots in our language, such as "practice" or "doing." These hot-spots are obviously where the "action" is, and hearty, dark ales are a-plenty.
"Act," as it strikes me, tends to denote something fixed and static, whereas "action" gives the sense of an ongoing activity. Lobkowicz has whispered in my ear: Prasso, prasso! I accomplish a journey! I manage a state of affairs! I fare well!
But let us not pour shaven rats down a funnel, and get to the main ingredient: Aristotle. Aristotle uses "action" to speak of the fruitful ways of life that are open to free men, and the journey that constitutes a free man's ethical life. Theoria and Praxis: Theory and Practice. And if we perform an activity well, party time: Eupraxia! And while we are at it, and by "we" I mean "me and those voices that occur in my head when I eat too many Cheetos," it might be worth dispatching of the connection between "practice" and "practical." Although they share a cognate blood-type, the inner beauty of the former and the janitorial-supply-sense of the latter cannot be confused. I simply refuse to let those who venture to invent things like "high fructose corn syrup" lay claim to such a beautiful concept as "action."
But this is not enough. We must quote J.S. Mill for good measure, I guess. "What is action? Not one thing, but a series of two things: the state of mind called a volition, followed by an effect." Notice "volition," a rancid -tion type A. Of course, Mill's quote gives the sense that an action can be complete, but "act" and "action" are used equally in past-tense tension. The beauty in "action" is, ultimately, constituted by a compound: free will and a type of self-creation that cannot be resolved in standard cadence.