The dynamics between “Theoretical” & “experimental/practical” knowledge
There are all sorts of difficulties, at least in my conceptualization, in rigorously dividing the two “aspects” of knowledge we mentioned in the question, because these two aspects of knowledge might be more intertwined than we think, but for the sake of understanding the world just a little bit more, let’s give it a try and separate them for now.
Theory/theoretical knowledge: is the explanation of phenomena using human reason, abstract reasoning, and conjectures to understand the case/situation at hand. It has to do with understanding things as a priority, rather than implementing them, per se.
Practical/experimental knowledge: “Real world” applications or innovations of the models we have built as conjectures in the theoretical knowledge part (the applicable ones). You can think of it as the implementation/testing of theoretical knowledge.
Looking at it from the Macro level:
First, one thing to mention that can clarify things a bit is that: every practical/experimental piece of knowledge has a theory “behind” it, or at least will have one in the future. However, the opposite is not necessarily true.
To put it another way, the probability of applying theoretical knowledge directly to the “real world”, or taking it further than mere “understanding”, is pretty lower (although not minuscule) than endeavours that actually have a focused direct practical side to them, as far as I understand them. Which is one important reason, I think, for why some people are not very enthusiastic to “engage” in theoretical knowledge at the first look, per se (ex. people not excited to take theoretical University courses).
Examples of this include the dynamics between mathematics and engineering. If you’re operating mainly within the realm of pure mathematics and excelling at that (not the applied types), you might probably do a lot of math, and not see it end up in the newest engineering models of a computer for quite some time, for example. But doing some legit engineering would necessitate grasping some mathematics, which proves the point we mentioned above more with regards to their interactions.
Now to go back to theoretical knowledge, the exciting part of it, and the thing we come to learn throughout the decades, is that we can never know if this piece of “theoretical” knowledge will be directly applied to the “real world” or not in the future, and one reason that comes to my mind to explain this is that: there are no configurational limits to what we can “build” in the outside world (although fundamental limits include laws of physics), so we can never know what valid theoretical knowledge will be directly applied in the future models of new inventions, even if that piece of knowledge seems solely about “understanding” rather than implementing, at the moment.
Theoretical knowledge and novelty:
It also seems to me like pure theoretical knowledge is directly proportional to novelty in some way. The more someone “understands” the thing more on a deep level that somehow transcends Practicality at the first instance, the more they’ll probably produce something completely new out of the issue in hand. Now, to bring this point back to reality, no discipline is purely practical or purely theoretical, they’re both overlapping in a lot of ways, but rather we can look at this arbitrary correlation and align it with an individual’s micro level novel achievements, rather than on a disciplinary/macro level.
.…Speaking of the micro level, we may have discussed the macro disciplinary aspect of it up until this point, but let’s hold on to this for a second, and speak about it from the individual’s perspective rather than on a macro/societal level. Theoretical knowledge teaches one how to think about the world, even if it doesn’t get applied directly in a disciplinary “real world” setting. You can think of it almost as a relative imaginative practice for brain power that will necessarily come to translate into solving real-world problems, if we assume we looked closely enough into that theoretical knowledge. I can’t help but to include the example of Philosophical endevours. It’s useful in our context here to think about the usefulness of philosophy because you can think of it as analogous to “theoretical” knowledge in some way. Now, in my opinion, I think philosophical endevours interestingly will teach one how to think systematically with regards to other endevours of life, even if the topic at hand is not obviously applicable to real-world scenarios. one just has to look closely enough into the act of “philosophizing”. And this seems to me equally applicable to the dynamics of theoretical and experimental knowledge.
One conclusion we can come to after thinking about this question (and my random answers about it) from a macro and micro level is that: both practical and theoretical knowledge are equally important in the trip of life. Putting one over the other, ontologically, doesn’t seem like the optimal way to go, because both of them seem to construct our productive realities in some way, whether the individual is absorbing/seeking or producing that knowledge.