Concept of Praxis – In philosophy, professional practice and malpractice

We explain what praxis is, its meaning in philosophy and what professional praxis is. Also, what is malpractice.

professional practice
Praxis is the practical side of a discipline.

What is praxis?

The word praxis, derived from ancient Greek (specifically from the verb prassein, “Do”), means in Spanish the practice of something, that is, carrying it out or doing it in a concrete way, especially in opposition to theory. That is, we distinguish between theory (thinking and planning) and praxis or practice (the concrete realization of the thing).

This opposition between theory and practice (praxis) comes from classical antiquity: the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) classified human activities into three different categories, which are theory (theorein) or search for the truth; the poeticspoiesis) what is creative imitation; and practice (praxis) or concrete problem solving.

That is why, according to the Western philosophical tradition, the praxis is always subject to theory, that is, to planning and observation. This opposition between action and reason was dealt with by many of the great philosophers of modern history, such as Kant (1724-1804), Hegel (1770-1831) or Marx himself (1818-1883).

Thus, when we refer to the praxis of something, we are commonly referring to its concrete realization, that is, to its practical side.

Praxis in philosophy

In Western philosophy, the term praxis has been used by various thinkers, always as a synonym for action or practice of something.

However, the term is strongly associated with politics and especially Marxism: Karl Marx contradicted the classic subordination of praxis to theoretical thought (in the sense that one must first come up with theory and then proceed to praxis), claiming that in reality theoretical thought arises from the practical (material, social) conditions in which human life occurs and therefore so much actually depends on them.

This inversion (that the theory is determined by praxis and not the other way around) is fundamental in Marxist thought, for which the concrete models of material production are those that determine the way in which reality is interpreted, and not the other way around. Put more easily, for Marxism it is the material that determines the way in which one thinks, and not the other way around.

Hence, the different schools of Marxism are known as the “philosophy of praxis”, as well as the forms of radical pragmatism born in the United States.

Professional practice

The practice of a profession encompasses the way in which it should be exercised.

When speaking of professional practice or professional practice, allusion is generally made to the criteria of responsibility, ethics and commitment that the correct exercise of a profession requires, that is, its due practice.

Thus, one can speak of medical practice, legal practice, educational practice, etc., always referring to the way in which the profession is carried out (practiced). This is particularly important when it comes to malpractice, as we will see below.

Bad practice

The term malpractice is used to refer to professional negligence, that is, the failure of an individual to meet the essential minimum requirements of ethical and moral responsibility, in the fulfillment of their professional tasks.

This term is used mostly in the medical field (medical malpractice) when a doctor causes damage or harm to a patient by action or omission, that is, by carelessness, lack of preparation or lack of ethics. However, also applies to any form of professional practice: law, accounting, education, psychotherapy, etc.

In general, malpractice is considered an action with professional, ethical and even criminal responsibilities, since it is a totally avoidable act or omission, caused by negligence, and which can perfectly cost the professional his license to practice the profession, or can even lead him to face justice.

A typical example of malpractice occurs when doctors and nurses involved in an operation forget inside the patient’s body a gauze, a surgical instrument or some other object that puts the patient at risk of death. Another typical case is the misrepresentation of a lawyer, whose ignorance of the law or whose inattention leads his client to face worse consequences than he would have normally faced.