Study of Torah undoubtedly serves numerous practical purposes, but these are not the crucial objectives.
Study is not geared to the degree of importance or the practical potential of the problems discussed.
Its main aim is learning itself.
Likewise, knowledge of Torah is not an aid to observance of law but an end in itself.
This does not mean that the Talmud is not concerned the values contained in the material studied.
On the contrary, it is stated emphatically that he who studies Torah and does not serve what he studies would better never have been born.
A true scholar serves as a living example by his way of life and conduct.
But this is part of the general outlook of the Talmud; for the student poring over the text, study has no other end but knowledge.
Every subject pertaining to Torah, or to life as related to Torah, is worthy of consideration and analysis, and an attempt is always made to delve into the heart of the matter.
In the course of study, the question of whether these analyses are of practical use is never raised.
We often encounter in the Talmud protracted and vehement debates on various problems that try to examine structure of the method and to elucidate the conclusions deriving from it.
The scholars invested all this effort despite the fact they knew the source itself had been rejected and was of no legislative significance.
This approach also explains why we fine debates on problems that were relevant in the distant past and unlikely ever to arise again.
It sometimes occurs, of course, that problems or debates thought impractical or irrelevant gain practical significance in some later age.
This is a familiar phenomenon in the sphere of pure science.
But this development is of little consequence to the talmudic student, as, from the outset, his sole objective has been to solve theoretical problems and to seek the truth.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From The Essential Talmud, Chapter 1, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz