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A definition of 'context'

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Here you are; I can think of none better:

The perspective in and from which a thing is viewed.

Not only 'from' which a thing is viewed, but 'in' which a thing is viewed. Both needed. Why? I need myself to formulate this explicitly; is it a matter of tying perspectives together, a need relating to integration? Both 'internal', and 'external'? Linking all that is known, into a unified, non-contradictory 'model', that ties to, integrates with, all that is?

"A fact never went into partnership with a miracle. Truth scorns the assistance of wonders. A fact will fit every other fact in the universe, and that is how you can tell whether it is or is not a fact. A lie will not fit anything except another lie."

- Robert Ingersoll

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What problem are you trying to solve here?

Context

Knowledge is contextual . . . By “context” we mean the sum of cognitive elements conditioning the acquisition, validity or application of any item of human knowledge. Knowledge is an organization or integration of interconnected elements, each relevant to the others . . . Knowledge is not a mosaic of independent pieces each of which stands apart from the rest . . . .

In regard to any concept, idea, proposal, theory, or item of knowledge, never forget or ignore the context on which it depends and which conditions its validity and use.

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  • 4 years later...
  • 5 weeks later...

Cognition is a process, which means that any train of thought has both a subject and a direction.  Whether you intend to solve some problem or answer some question (like this one), there is some purpose for every line of reasoning. 

Information which is "relevant" to any train of thought is that information which brings it closer to fruition. 

Any thought's "full context" consists of all of the relevant information available to you.

 

Or, if you prefer, "the sum of cognitive elements conditioning the acquisition, validity or application of any item of human knowledge."

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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  • 3 years later...
On 8/1/2014 at 12:18 AM, Peter Morris said:

I would have considered context to be more like viewing the thing while also considering all the other relevant things around it. I don't consider perspective to play an essential role in defining the meaning of context.

All definitions are contextual, and a primitive definition does not contradict a more advanced one: the latter merely expands the former. ("Definitions,” Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 42–43)
The key for me is that he uses the phrase "within the field of one’s awareness". So I would conclude: That which is causing, maintaining the field of awareness is the context. But the "field", is the context. The field is experienced when the perception is experienced. So "perspective" fits very well.

If I am looking at a hair with a microscope, it looks different than with the naked eye. It looks large in the microscopic context and small "line" in the naked-eye context. One could say "from the perspective of looking through a microscope it is this". From a different perspective, it is that.
 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/2/2017 at 3:16 PM, Easy Truth said:

The key for me is that he uses the phrase "within the field of one’s awareness". ... But the "field", is the context. The field is experienced when the perception is experienced. So "perspective" fits very well.

That's true enough.

 

On 11/2/2017 at 3:16 PM, Easy Truth said:

So I would conclude: That which is causing, maintaining the field of awareness is the context.

Firstly, the field of awareness itself is the context; that which is causing it is the subject. For example: when viewing a hair under a microscope your lab, your equipment and everything you know about that hair (and all hair in general) is the context; the hair itself, which is causing your cognition, is the subject.

 

Secondly, even that is only a description of "context"; not a prescription. You could look at the hair while thinking about your lab assistant, the manufacturer of your particular microscope, a smudge on its lens, what you know about this particular hair or anything else. You could hold literally anything in the field of your awareness while viewing that hair and neither your definition nor the one I just provided would tell you what you should focus on.

 

That's why I mentioned the "purpose" of your cognition. If you're testing a new brand of shampoo for any dangerous side-effects then your lab assistant is irrelevant and has no place in that cognition (unless she's been using it herself). 

What you should or shouldn't consider depends entirely on what you're trying to discover.

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54 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Firstly, the field of awareness itself is the context; that which is causing it is the subject. For example: when viewing a hair under a microscope your lab, your equipment and everything you know about that hair (and all hair in general) is the context; the hair itself, which is causing your cognition, is the subject.

 

Secondly, even that is only a description of "context"; not a prescription. You could look at the hair while thinking about your lab assistant, the manufacturer of your particular microscope, a smudge on its lens, what you know about this particular hair or anything else. You could hold literally anything in the field of your awareness while viewing that hair and neither your definition nor the one I just provided would tell you what you should focus on.

 

That's why I mentioned the "purpose" of your cognition. If you're testing a new brand of shampoo for any dangerous side-effects then your lab assistant is irrelevant and has no place in that cognition (unless she's been using it herself). 

What you should or shouldn't consider depends entirely on what you're trying to discover.

 

I see your point. Although I do have a question why do you mention "prescription" with regards to context? To define context isn't all you need the description?

The reason I am confused is that I find myself only observing the context, I don't see myself trying to create the context based on what I want to discover.

Object A is in front of object B (B is hidden behind A) based on looking at it from the south. From the west, both objects are visible. So If I want to see both objects, I choose the perspective/context "west". Then it allows me to see both. (I am not trying to discover them, or you calling this discovering?).

When it comes to discovering, I accidentally looked at it from the west and I found out there also exists an object B. Previously I only saw Object A from the south.

As an aside, I feel that the concept "context" is extremely important because I see many disagreements due to two people talking about the same thing but in different contexts and not being able to detect the other person's context. If I can master awareness of contextual shifts, it should become easier to create more agreements.

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17 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

As an aside, I feel that the concept "context" is extremely important because I see many disagreements due to two people talking about the same thing but in different contexts and not being able to detect the other person's context. If I can master awareness of contextual shifts, it should become easier to create more agreements.

That's true, but "agreement" doesn't always mean "truth". Millions of people can agree that the Bubonic Plague is caused by sin.

17 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

The reason I am confused is that I find myself only observing the context, I don't see myself trying to create the context based on what I want to discover.

Why not? If you wanted to know some thing wouldn't you try to learn it by reasoning from a certain specific body of knowledge (neither including anything irrelevant nor excluding anything relevant)?

 

It doesn't have to be done that way. 

What makes "creationist science" (I'm not kidding) wrong is the inclusion of something irrelevant (the Bible) into the context of its "science". This makes all the conclusions they draw from their context laughably absurd, in order not to contradict the dark-age "facts" they want to integrate into their "science".

What makes most peoples' conception of "selfishness" (concern with one's own interests) wrong is that it excludes something relevant (what one thinks those interests actually are and why one thinks so) from the context of moral judgement. This prevents them from even attempting to reason about their own interests or values (because what's there to figure out?) which leaves their choice of goals and aspirations up to whatever subconscious connections they might happen to make (whether this leads them to desire things which in fact help them or harm them).

Both kinds of mistake stem from trying to understand some thing from the wrong contextual basis.

 

In order to live long and prosper you must be able to act (mainly in the form of productive work, but that's only part of it). In order to act you have to know what you're trying to do, why it should be done and how to do it. In order to know any of that you have to be able to think correctly (which includes being able to judge which context would give you the correct answer to which question).

That's why epistemology matters.

 

P.S: 

In case you didn't believe me about "creationist science", here are some of the worst methods of thinking I have ever seen before! :thumbsup:

 

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  • 3 years later...

I'm aware this thread is a few years old, but thought I'd try my hand at asking since I've been thinking about these questions.

 

  @Harrison Danneskjold

@Easy Truth

On 8/1/2014 at 5:59 AM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Cognition is a process, which means that any train of thought has both a subject and a direction.  Whether you intend to solve some problem or answer some question (like this one), there is some purpose for every line of reasoning. 

Information which is "relevant" to any train of thought is that information which brings it closer to fruition. 

Any thought's "full context" consists of all of the relevant information available to you.

 

Or, if you prefer, "the sum of cognitive elements conditioning the acquisition, validity or application of any item of human knowledge."

Is there any difference between cognition & reason?

Is relevant information then information which is "causally significant" for the thing being studied? Or is that overcomplicating it and "relevant" is simply & only that information which allows one to either (1) solve a problem, or (2) answer a question.

If "full context" is "all information available to you" then isn't EVERYTHING the full context, e.g., "existence exist" is part of the context of me asking a friend to come over for tea? Where is the line drawn - would it be correct to stay that the context and where the line is drawn is the next unit of knowledge you need to make some integration? 

 

On 11/2/2017 at 8:16 PM, Easy Truth said:

All definitions are contextual, and a primitive definition does not contradict a more advanced one: the latter merely expands the former. ("Definitions,” Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 42–43)
The key for me is that he uses the phrase "within the field of one’s awareness". So I would conclude: That which is causing, maintaining the field of awareness is the context. But the "field", is the context. The field is experienced when the perception is experienced. So "perspective" fits very well.

If I am looking at a hair with a microscope, it looks different than with the naked eye. It looks large in the microscopic context and small "line" in the naked-eye context. One could say "from the perspective of looking through a microscope it is this". From a different perspective, it is that.
 

I haven't read ITOE yet, but I went to the relevant section you looked at:

"Concepts are not and cannot be formed in a vacuum; they are formed in a context; the process of conceptualization consists of observing the differences and similarities of the existents within the field of one’s awareness (and organizing them into concepts accordingly). From a child’s grasp of the simplest concept integrating a group of perceptually given concretes, to a scientist’s grasp of the most complex abstractions integrating long conceptual chains—all conceptualization is a contextual process; the context is the entire field of a mind’s awareness or knowledge at any level of its cognitive development."

When he is saying "field of awareness", is this referring to the perceptual field mainly? And in the case of the scientist what would be in the "field" other than definitions? How can you hold a whole "field" of different concepts or abstractions all at once?

 

Also are you saying here that perspective affects the context or that perspective is the same thing as context?

 

On 11/12/2017 at 12:27 AM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

That's true enough.

 

Firstly, the field of awareness itself is the context; that which is causing it is the subject. For example: when viewing a hair under a microscope your lab, your equipment and everything you know about that hair (and all hair in general) is the context; the hair itself, which is causing your cognition, is the subject.

 

Secondly, even that is only a description of "context"; not a prescription. You could look at the hair while thinking about your lab assistant, the manufacturer of your particular microscope, a smudge on its lens, what you know about this particular hair or anything else. You could hold literally anything in the field of your awareness while viewing that hair and neither your definition nor the one I just provided would tell you what you should focus on.

 

That's why I mentioned the "purpose" of your cognition. If you're testing a new brand of shampoo for any dangerous side-effects then your lab assistant is irrelevant and has no place in that cognition (unless she's been using it herself). 

What you should or shouldn't consider depends entirely on what you're trying to discover.

I am not quite following why a subject "causes" the context and the sense in which you mean this.. Are you saying triggers associated subconscious information?

 

On 11/12/2017 at 8:31 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

What makes "creationist science" (I'm not kidding) wrong is the inclusion of something irrelevant (the Bible) into the context of its "science". This makes all the conclusions they draw from their context laughably absurd, in order not to contradict the dark-age "facts" they want to integrate into their "science".

What makes most peoples' conception of "selfishness" (concern with one's own interests) wrong is that it excludes something relevant (what one thinks those interests actually are and why one thinks so) from the context of moral judgement. This prevents them from even attempting to reason about their own interests or values (because what's there to figure out?) which leaves their choice of goals and aspirations up to whatever subconscious connections they might happen to make (whether this leads them to desire things which in fact help them or harm them).

Both kinds of mistake stem from trying to understand some thing from the wrong contextual basis.

 

In order to live long and prosper you must be able to act (mainly in the form of productive work, but that's only part of it). In order to act you have to know what you're trying to do, why it should be done and how to do it. In order to know any of that you have to be able to think correctly (which includes being able to judge which context would give you the correct answer to which question).

That's why epistemology matters.

 

 

In the example you gave of "selfishness", what would you say is the primary cause of people missing what's "relevant"? Is it simply lack of precision in earlier concepts like 'interest'? Do you think this is an issue across the board for many other problems (unclear, vague prerequisite concepts causing issues higher up)?

 

 

 

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I'm not ignoring all your questions but I will only answer the one's that I think I have thought about adequately:

3 hours ago, Jonathan Weissberg said:

"Concepts are not and cannot be formed in a vacuum; they are formed in a context; the process of conceptualization consists of observing the differences and similarities of the existents within the field of one’s awareness (and organizing them into concepts accordingly). From a child’s grasp of the simplest concept integrating a group of perceptually given concretes, to a scientist’s grasp of the most complex abstractions integrating long conceptual chains—all conceptualization is a contextual process; the context is the entire field of a mind’s awareness or knowledge at any level of its cognitive development."

That means that if the child used his mind to infer something, you would infer that same something if you had that child's mind as in his "field of awareness", his perspective, or his capability to understand. So what he sees is valid i.e. it is from a child's perspective.

3 hours ago, Jonathan Weissberg said:

When he is saying "field of awareness", is this referring to the perceptual field mainly?

He could not be limiting it to the perceptual field especially when he is including how you organize them into concepts. That which affects your field of awareness can't be limited to perception (to what you sense/perceive) it has to include concepts/previous conclusions and perhaps other things that I may not have mentioned.

3 hours ago, Jonathan Weissberg said:

And in the case of the scientist what would be in the "field" other than definitions?

The lense, his eyesight (capability to see), and his assumptions are some of those things. These affect what he sees. The lense is obvious, bad eyesight as in color blindness would cause him to see what he sees, and his assumptions can skew his view or conclusion about what he is seeing. (his political leanings may influence it too LOL) These examples are not "definitions" that he holds, but they do affect the understanding/identification of what is perceived.

3 hours ago, Jonathan Weissberg said:

Also are you saying here that perspective affects the context or that perspective is the same thing as context?

Because my definition of perspective is broader that "spacial, or visual perspective", yes it is the same thing. But if your definition of perspective is limited to "where you are in relations to the object" then no, context is far more broad.

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