Thus, it becomes clear that theory and principle are two inter-related words. Therefore, it is important to note that theories stem from principles. This is because a theory stems from a general principle that can be proven through evidence. While theories are capable of various phenomena, principles direct the entire society as they are behind every law and system.
What is a Theory?
A theory is a scientifically acceptable general principle that can explain a phenomenon. Oxford dictionary defines it as “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained” while American Heritage dictionary defines it as a “set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena”.
Thus, a theory always explains a specific phenomenon. Moreover, a theory stems from a hypothesis, which is proven with valid evidence. We mostly encounter theories in the field of science. Quantum theory, theory of evolution, theory of general relativity, theory of special relativity are some examples of scientific theory. In addition, there are various theories such as political theories and philosophical theories.
However, it also important to note that theory may not be universally accepted. When new evidence comes into the light with the advancement of technology and passage of time, scientists sometimes have to revise or replace theories.
What is a Principle?
A principle is a basic rule, law or concept. Oxford dictionary defines principle as “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning” while American Heritage dictionary defines it as a “basic truth, law, or assumption”.
A principle can also refer to a value or a code of conduct that guides behaviour. Principles can be moral legal or scientific. Moral principles are the values that guide the conduct of people in a particular society. Legal principles are the fundamental source of laws whereas scientific principles are the rules or concepts that give rise to theories.
What is the Relationship Between Theory and Principle?
- A theory is a set of principles.
- Also, scientific principles give rise to theories.
What is the Difference Between Theory and Principle?
Summary – Theory vs Principle
Theory and principle are two inter-related concepts. The key difference between theory and principle is that theory is a scientifically credible general principle that explains a phenomenon whereas principle is a basic truth, rule, or law.
1.“Principle.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Aug. 2018. Available here