Context: the case for a principled epistemic particularism

Abstract
The context-sensitivity of many cognitive processes is usually seen as an objective property which we should try to account for and to simulate in computational models. This rests on a mistaken view of inquiry as guided by principles alone. In ethics, exclusive reliance on principles is all but abandoned: the ability to deal with particular cases depends on something more. The same goes for the belief fixation processes involved in communication and other cognitive tasks. The paper defends a mixed model of inquiry, which combines the traditional rationalist reliance on principles with a consideration for appropriateness in the case at hand. The key idea is that how one deals with context is a matter not of fact, but of judgment. The paper concludes with a characterization of some of the areas in which context is easily dealt with, and explains why areas in which it isn’t are not systematically shunned by people. # 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved
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