Contextualism

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Overview[edit]

nature v. nurture
embedded a priori v. embodied a posteriori
cognitive revolution (1956) v. contextual revolution (when) 

All these would be a matter of complementarity rather than polarity. Yet cognitivists or internalists used to speak proud and loud of the cognitive revolution as if it had silenced behaviorists or externalists since 1956. They seemed to make best use of the magic of the trendy and tricky term "cognitive science" replacing "psycholinguistics."

Interestingly, it is while the center of meaning as a new earthquake was shifting from semantic externalism without the subject, say, Word and Object (Willard Quine 1960) to semantic internalism within it, say, the person of Person and Object (Roderick Chisholm 1976), which is identified case by case in the complex context, seasoned and reasoned, hence preferring context-based behaviorism to context-free nativism.

Meanwhile, Donald Davidson described Hilary Putnam's semantic externalism (1975) as an "anti-subjectivist revolution." However, it was reactionary rather than revolutionary in reality, as it had long occupied not only their Harvard but also analytic philosophy at large under their control. Now it is their turn to be challenged particularly (more than phenomenology) by integral, synoptic or synthetic philosophy, based on cogito-centric (not really "subjectivist" but plainly "user-centered") contextualism.

The triangle of reference (Ogden & Richards 1923) may be specially noteworthy in this regard, which puts THOUGHT on top of SYMBOL and REFERENT, that is, Word and Object (Quine 1960). Walker Percy (1975) called it the "Delta Factor" as "absolutely irreducible," whereas Hilary Putnam (1975) argued for semantic externalism close to phenomenology, as suggested by his dictum, "Meanings just ain't in the head."

As an extension, the triangle with THOUGHT on top suggests that both the textual and phenomenal contexts are necessarily mediated by the mental context that thus should not simply be excluded or bracketed. Both analytic philosophy's and phenomenology's objectivist or positivist argument for human projects or texts and divine objects, respectively, regardless of secular subjects at issue, may be fatally biased and flawed, hence an absolute anomaly in those paradigms.

Suddenly starting from 1975 indeed, the "contextual revolution," as later named by Jerome Bruner (1990), was taking place widespread to replace the "cognitive revolution," as called by his old Harvard colleague George A. Miller in favor of Herbert Simon, Noam Chomsky, and others.

Nevertheless, it is yet to be widely known as such. It is watered down as much as the claim for cognitive revolution. Indeed, it is as cognitive as subjective, but not so native. It focuses on the self or cogito in context, no more in isolation, as had been exactly the case unfortunately.

There are so many contextual revolutionaries at UC Berkeley, among whom Hubert Dreyfus may be the champion who mainly aimed at such cognitivists in AI as Herbert Simon, Allen Newell, Marvin Minsky, Seymour Papert, etc. Each had to look for one contextualist outlook or another.

References[edit]

Notes