50 Real Clever Words for Psychology Students


Number #3 - Praxis



The original Greek word in Greek lettering is πραξις

recommended pronunciation

The original Greek word in English lettering is praxis

The word as adopted into English is praxis

artificial praxis in the movies


We perceive, we understand, and we respond, and the key words on the responding side of things are pragma <πραγμα> and praxis <πραξις>, both of which derive from the Ancient Greek root prassw <πρασσω> [= "I do, practise"] and refer to activities initiated as acts of will. Cognitive science has accordingly come to use the word praxis to refer to the broad spectrum of voluntary behaviour, that is to say, the initiation of sequential willed movement for any purpose, including locomotion or communication. Reflex movements or instinctive vocalisations are not praxis because they are not willed, even though they end up using the same motor pathways and muscles. Defects of praxis are known as "dyspraxias" or "apraxias" depending on how severe they are (the prefix dys- indicates only a partial dysfunction). The psyche [see Word #2] deploys aesthesis [see Word #1] to monitor the outside world, and praxis to manoeuvre itself within it. There are also a large number of other useful derivative words ...

         praxeme, a unit of behaviour.

         parapraxis, a poorly executed praxeme, a slip of the tongue, a "Freudian slip".

         pragmatism [1] [hence also pragmatist/pragmatic], the everyday English word for actions justified by likelihood of practical success rather than by theoretical or abstract principal [for more see Wiktionary]. Pragmatism [2], a philosophical school which "considers thought as an instrument or tool for prediction, problem solving and action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality"(Wikipedia).

         IMPORTANT Pragmatics, the very modern and very important science of communicational motivation, that is to say, "of the aspects of meaning and language use that are dependent on the speaker, the addressee, and other features of the context of utterance" (Lingualinks). The study of pragmatics grew out of the works of John Austin, Herbert Grice, and John Searle, and looks in particular at the effect that motive, context, and custom have on discourse

         IMPORTANT Pragmatic Language Impairment (PLI), a.k.a. Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder, a speech and language disorder emerging in childhood and characterised by "difficulty in understanding the [intention behind the] meaning of words, grammar, syntax, prosody, eye gaze, body language, gestures, or social context" (Wikipedia [but improved]), resulting in interactional confusion and inappropriacy of social response. Examples: See the many carefully categorised examples in Adams and Bishop (1989b/2004 online).


Firstly, because many of the problems set out in Aristotle's (ca. 350 BCE) De Anima have never been solved, and are as fresh today as they ever were. So using the original Greek terminology demonstrates a willingness to go back to basics and consider the big picture.

Secondly, because a thorough understanding of biological praxis is required by those working on machine praxis, that is to say, in the sciences of robotics, AI, and AC [= artificial consciousness]. To see some typical employment opportunities simply browse <job opportunities in autonomous robotics>.


To broaden your understanding of the word praxis, here are some of the many hundreds of links you might encounter once you start looking ...

         Encyclopaedia entry - check it out [start with the entry for "pragma"]

         Clinical usage of the term - check it out

         Benjamin Libet on the neural correlates of praxis - check it out

         Willpower: when volition fails - check it out

         Articles in Journal of Pragmatics - check it out

         Machine volition and legal liability - check it out


50 Real Clever Words for Psychology Students


This material was written and published in Wales by Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). It forms part of the Smithsrisca multifile e-learning resource, and subject only to acknowledging Derek J. Smith's rights under international copyright law to be identified as author may be freely downloaded and printed off in single complete copies solely for the purposes of private study and/or review. Commercial exploitation rights are reserved. The remote hyperlinks have been selected for the academic appropriacy of their contents; they were free of offensive and litigious content when selected, and will be periodically checked to have remained so. Copyright 2018, Derek J. Smith. [Homepage]