To “act” is to go through the motions of behaviour without really feeling it, lacking the appropriate experiences…. Amateur actors, like political revolutionaries, are those who find the conventions hard to grasp and perform them badly, having never recovered from their childhood puzzlement.
Such puzzlement is perhaps what we call “theory.” The child is an incorrigible theoretician, forever urging the most impossibly fundamental questions. The form of a philosophical question, Wittgenstein remarks, is “I don’t know my way around”; and since this is literally true of the child, it is driven to pose questions which are not answerable simply in rhetorical terms (“The meaning of this action is this”) but which press perversely on to interrogate the whole form of social life which might generate such particular meanings in the first place. Theory is in this sense the logical refuge of those puzzled or naïve enough not to find simply rhetorical answers adequate, or who want to widen the boundaries of what mature minds take to be adequate rhetorical explanations.
…Theory begins to take hold once one realizes that the adults don’t know their way around either, even if they act as though they do. They act as well as they do precisely because they can no longer see, and so question, the conventions by which they behave. The task of theory is to breed bad actors.
— Terry Eagleton, “Brecht and Rhetoric” (1982)