Philosophy and Practicality – To Know and To Do

Philosophy and Practicality

To Know and To Do


Chapter 1 Why Do We Think One Thing And Do Another?


Practice and Theory


We live in a world where there is a great gulf between what people think and what they do.


We constantly see that people’s behavior does not reflect their beliefs, or at least what they profess to believe.


Often parents encourage their children to follow a particular set of rules even if the parents themselves do not.


Such a segregation of knowledge and action is unacceptable and false.


A way of life means one way not two.


Someone whose deeds do not reflect his or her thoughts is going in two directions at once.


To live a meaningful life, we must learn to direct our thoughts speech and deeds towards one end.



Integrating thought with action


The Bible teaches mankind how to lead a meaningful life.


It is a life that requires harmony between knowledge and behavior, in which every event, from the most sublime to the most mundane, is permeated with meaning and purpose.


Why is it that we demand consistency from everything around us, but tolerate inconsistency in our own behavior?


Perhaps we are not as honest when it comes to ourselves, or perhaps it is because we simply find it easier to do as we please without considering the consequences.


But you must ask yourself: “How can I expect to find peace, if my life is divided between what I believe and what I do?”


When you see yourself as a self contained individual with no clear purpose in life, you may be controlled by conflicting thoughts and desires.


Were we to see life through the eyes of its Creator, though, we would see thought and action for what they truly are, two sides of the same coin.


Just as a book is the ideas and words express these ideas, our lives are the combination of our thoughts and actions.


Practice and Theory

When we introduce G-d into our lives, we recognize this unity.


We recognize that knowledge teaches us how to behave and that our behavior is the way to actualize our knowledge.


So for a person to be complete and righteous, he must master both knowledge and action.


Practice and Theory


Which is more important, thought or action?


In one place, the sages state that “learning is greater, because learning brings to deed” however they also write that “the essential thing is not learning, but doing.”


Action without knowledge not only is directionless, but can be dangerous.


Knowledge without action, on the other hand, is fruitless.


An architect can plan for years, draw blueprints, and hire builders, but if the building is never erected, all the preparation amounts to nothing.


In our material world, the bottom line is action.


Practice and Theory

The relationship between knowledge and action is like the relationship between the soul and the body.


Without the soul the body would be lifeless, and without the body, the soul would be unable to carry out even its best intentions.


But together, the body and soul form one healthy unit.


Similarly your knowledge infuses your conduct with vitality, direction and meaning.


Practice and Theory


Thought is the most sublime form of human expression, while the deed is the most concrete.


Practice and Theory


In our society, most people are in one of two groups – the thinkers or the doers, the creative or the practical.


Such a split is unhealthy, a wholesome person, no matter how lofty or brilliant his or her thoughts may be, must ground them in deed, and even the simplest deed must be directed by knowledge.


Practice and Theory


In education, therefore we need to concentrate on both the cognitive and behavioral.


A student must learn a rational value system that will influence his behavior, but he must also learn a certain behavioral discipline, just as soldiers are disciplined to react instinctively in threatening situations.


The cognitive also allows a student to be skeptical of the information he is being taught, to challenge it before absorbing and integrating it into his behavior.


Since young children cannot be expected to determine good behaviors from bad on their own, they must be taught appropriate behavior until it becomes second nature.


There is no such thing as neutral education, either a child assumes healthy habits or unhealthy ones.


Once his cognitive abilities develop, he can be taught the rationale behind the value system he learned.

Chapter 2 How Do We Balance Philosophy and Practicality?

Practice and Theory

Unifying thought and action

Aren’t knowledge and action in conflict with each other?


After all, knowledge involves the development of self, while action means putting aside self-orientated instincts for the task at hand.


So when we have a free hour, how should we use it?


How does a person cross over this difficult divide from the sublime world of thought to the material world of deed?


By recognizing why you were put here in the first place – to serve your Creator.


Personal growth is necessary but not an end in itself.


When we humbly acknowledge our role in life, and recognize that the world does not revolve around our ego, we put aside our vanity and act responsibly.


We realize that each of us is integral in shaping the world but none of us has the power- or the responsibility – to do it alone.


Practice and Theory

If ideals and reality don’t match the ideals are dubious


We certainly should not serve G-d out of ignorant devotion, but with the power of a well developed intellect.


We have been given minds and hearts, free will and a faculty for pleasure; surely we were not meant to submit blindly to a robot-like servitude.


But the moral person must strive to unite his daily conduct with his convictions, to live up to the standards that he would like others to adhere to.


If one’s ideals are not reflected in his behavior, the integrity of the ideal itself must be questioned.


If a philosophy is not applied, its truths becomes dubious, for without representation on a practical level, the philosophy – like the architect’s unconsummated plans – is devoid of its purpose.


If a person is arrogant to others or lacks sensitivity or simple manners, then his wisdom has no value.


The goal of a truly wise person is to transform and integrate his wisdom, by bringing it to the reality of daily life, in the way he thinks, speaks, and behaves, even the way he walks the street and eats his meals.

Chapter 3 How Do We Apply This Unity?



Uniting Philosophy and Practicality


  • True unity means applying our philosophy to the personal and psychological level, connecting every aspect of our lives to G-d.


  • By achieving this unity between our ideology and actions, we will arrive at the point where we do not need to look in books to know what is right, it will become part of our very fabric.


  • Our instincts and actions will be in tune with our souls and with G-d.


  • We must know what we do; and do what we know!


  • We must be role models – not only for our children, but for our friends and associates.


  • Carry out your every good thought.


  • Use your intelligence to solve actual problems.


  • Express your love by stretching out a helping hand.


  • Give your money and time to charity.


  • A small talent that is put to use is far more valuable than a great talent that is wasted.


Practice and Theory

Uniting Philosophy and Practicality


Think about your ideology, and ask yourself: How much of it do I live up to?


When considering any plan of action, ask yourself: What difference will it make?


Tomorrow morning, before you engage in any intellectual enquiry, do a good deed.


Simply do it, and you will see how it enriches your outlook on life, for this is a two way street – just as the ideology feeds the deed, the deed fortifies the ideology.


 Indeed it creates ideology.


And remember the essential thing is the deed, for a deed has the power of the Divine.


Your act makes G-d act.


In its simplicity, a good deed is mightier than the greatest ideas ever concocted.


There is no better time to act.


To unite your thoughts and deeds, than now.


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