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Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Context Dependency: A Conversation

This is the transcript of a conversation between myself and Ent about the topic on Context.

[Ent]
Isn't philosophy context based, no matter how hard people try to bypass the human in search of human questions?

[GFM]
1) Depends what you mean by context, conceptual analysis might not be timeless or ahistorical, but it isn't context dependant in the same way some practices are. 2) I suppose you'd have to read some philosophy to find out. I've not noticed an attempt to bypass the human, we're not physicists after all.

[Ent]
I would say conceptual analysis was context dependent - but then you are right - I have read very little philosophy. Since I would see being human stemming from the context of this conscious node of relations with individual human biology, the surrounding universe and human cultures then I would see all questioning dependent on context, including physicists. If you say something is not context dependent you are in my perspective bypassing the human...

[GFM]
Your view of context is so wide-spread that in being everything it might as well be nothing. It says nothing about the World, only that we live together in a shared World.

[Ent]
We can't experience the world without experiencing it, so to say anything about the world we draw on these relationships and the ‘us’ that they have created.

[GFM]
I can't really tell what you're trying to say about context. It doesn't fit with any use of context at all. The historical context (that archaeologists and historians are interested in) isn't what you describe.

[Ent]
You cannot disassociate thought from the world it arrived in.

[GFM]
Yes, and? I can't see how this changes anything. We are a Worlded being and so start from being this type of being, one within a World. Right, that's where we all start. So? I'm missing something.

[Ent]
Historical context is part of that - the relationships with people and space and sensation

[GFM]
What do you mean by, "relationships with people and space and sensation"?

[Ent]
It forms the person, the person forms the thought, and the thoughts do not exist without the person.

[GFM]
And?

[Ent]
So, context (historical context) is important to fully exploring a thought.

[GFM]
This seems to imply that to fully understand (explore) a thought we should know everything about everything. So, knowledge is fundamentally unknowable as we cannot ever complete the ‘entire’ environment.

[Ent]
Well yes, but that isn't my main point... we can make a good guess with the tiny amount we know. When looking at a thought and looking for its truth without also looking at the person(s) who presented the thoughts and yourself and your own context you are getting part of a picture - you might wish to see more.
How we understand varies between people and massively between culture - our reference points and emotional understanding.

[GFM]
If absolute knowledge isn't the point (it is for some physicists) how can you talk of truth? Indeed, are you positing a type of absolute subjectivity then? My truth is mine because I see it this way in this context and therefore can't be wrong; you have your own context too.

[Ent]
Yes, but I don't think that truth is one thing - I am fairly convinced it is not.

[GFM]
But truth must equal context on your view. Therefore there must be a conceivable, but not necessarily existent, 'God's context'

[Ent]
No - part of my way of seeing my truth - and I think probably part of our shared cultural understanding of truth

[GFM]
Also, how do we guess?

[Ent]
We decide how

[GFM]
Decide based on what?
Internal reasoning?

[Ent]
An internal reasoning created and adapted by the gestalt hegemony of other's ideas and our own personal history of actions and reactions

[GFM]
So, truth really means how it fits in with standard usage in a culture then?

[Ent]
Quite probably. That's not a very easy way to see the world though, hence why most of the time I can't and many others don't... I may of course be wrong! (Otherwise my theories fall down!)
Any way - historical context - and your own context - worth bearing in mind...

[GFM]
How does the context of Socrates then affect me, if what actually affects me is the prevailing culture?
Because the prevailing culture already includes Socrates in it someway.

[Ent]
He is part of that prevailing culture - a historical myth

[GFM]
So a story about Socrates’ life changes what? Why choose him and not a medieval peasant?

[Ent]
Because it is his thoughts that I thought you might be dwelling upon - I spend a little while dwelling on the existence and stories of medieval peasants!

[GFM]
So a story about how someone lived their lives helps to describe their thoughts?

[Ent]
The whole bundle of how his thoughts reached you might be interesting as well. It might explain why they thought some things and not others you come up with, or how your interpretation across the seas of time and language and climate etc may be uniquely your own and not anything to do with what Socrates was trying to talk about

[GFM]
But it's not HOW he has his thoughts, but WHAT his thought were about that is important.

[Ent]
How can you understand how or what without knowing why and where?

[GFM]
The how is already involved in investigating the what. It plays no further part.
Because, on your view, we are already embedded in the world and can thus make a 'guess' which is enough (apparently)

[Ends...]

Part Two, coming soon?

1 comment:

Ent said...

I dont actually understand what I was saying now - it made perfect sense at the time - now I am like a stranger struggling to understand an inebriated fool in a barrel... Mostly non-gramatical enigma with occasional beacons of - "I think that!". Fun trying to interpret my ill-thought-out but well felt hunches about context though - I think I still hold to most of it!