The role of context in meaning and understanding

In this work the concept of 'context' is considered in five main points. First, context is seen as always necessary for an adequate explication of the concepts of meaning and understanding. Context always plays a role and is not merely brought into consideration when handling a special class of statements or terms, or when there is doubt and clarification is necessary. Second, context cannot be completely reduced to some system of representation. The reason for this is the presence of humans, which is always an important component of a context. Humans experience situations in ways that are not always reducible to symbolic representation. Third, contexts are in principle open. In normal cases they cannot be determined or described in advance. A context is not to be equated with a set of information. Fourth, we understand the parameters of a context pragmatically, which is why we are not led into doubt or even to meaning skepticism by the open nature of a context. This pragmatic knowledge belongs to the category of an ability. Fifth, contexts are, in principle, accessible. This denies the idea that some contexts are incommensurable. There are a number of pragmatic ways of accessing unfamiliar contexts. Some of these are here examined in light of the so-called 'culture wars' in the U.S.A.
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