FACTOID # 21: 15% of Army recruits from South Dakota are Native American, which is roughly the same percentage for female Army recruits in the state.
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Encyclopedia > Context principle

In the philosophy of language, the context principle is a form of semantic holism holding that a philosopher should "never ... ask for the meaning of a word in isolation, but only in the context of a proposition" (Frege [1884/1980] x). It is one of Gottlob Frege's "three fundamental principles" for philosophical analysis, first discussed in his Introduction to the Foundations of Arithmetic (Grundlagen der Arithmetik, 1884). Frege argued that many philosophical errors, especially those related to psychologism in the philosophy of logic and philosophy of mathematics, could be avoided by adhering carefully to the context principle. The view of meaning expressed by the context principle is sometimes called contextualism, but should not be confused with the common contemporary use of the term "contextualism" in epistemology or ethics. The contrasting view, that the meanings of words or expressions can be (or must be) determined prior to, and independently of, the meanings of the propositions in which they occur, is often referred to as compositionalism. Philosophy of language is the branch of philosophy that studies language. ... Semantic holism is a doctrine in the philosophy of language to the effect that a certain part of language, be it a term or a complete sentence, can only be understood through its relations to a (previously understood) larger segment of language. ... Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (8 November 1848, Wismar – 26 July 1925, Bad Kleinen) was a German mathematician who evolved into a logician and philosopher. ... Psychologism in the philosophy of mathematics is the explanation or derivation of mathematical or logical laws in terms of psychological facts. ... Philosophical logic is the study of the more specifically philosophical aspects of logic: the term contrasts with mathematical logic. ... Philosophy of mathematics is that branch of philosophy which attempts to answer questions such as: why is mathematics useful in describing nature?, in which sense(s), if any, do mathematical entities such as numbers exist? and why and how are mathematical statements true?. Various approaches to answering these questions will... In philosophy, contextualism is the view that any decision or action or utterance always takes place in a context and can only be understood within that context (cf indexicality). ...

The context principle also figures prominently in the work of other Analytic philosophers who saw themselves as continuing Frege's work, such as Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Analytic philosophy is the dominant philosophical movement of English-speaking countries, although one of its founders, Gottlob Frege, was German, and another, Ludwig Wittgenstein, was Austrian. ... Wikisource has original works written by or about: Bertrand Russell Writings available online [http://www005. ... Meaning is determined by use, in the context of a language-game {later} Meaning is determined by use, in the context of a language-game {later} Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (IPA: ) (April 26, 1889 – April 29, 1951) was an Austrian philosopher who contributed several ground-breaking works to modern philosophy...


Formulations of the Context Principle

Gottlob Frege, Introduction to The Foundations of Arithmetic (1884/1980)

In the enquiry that follows, I have kept to three fundamental principles:
always to separate sharply the psychological from the logical, the subjective from the objective;
never to ask for the meaning of a word in isolation, but only in the context of a proposition
never to lose sight of the distinction between concept and object.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921/1922)

3.3 Only the proposition has sense; only in the context of a proposition has a name meaning. ...
3.314 An expression has meaning only in a proposition. Every variable can be conceived as a propositional variable.
(Including the variable name.)


  • Frege, Gottlob (1884/1980). The Foundations of Arithmetic. Trans. J. L. Austin. Second Revised Edition. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. ISBN 0-8101-0605-1.
  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1921/1922). Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Trans. C. K. Ogden. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd. ISBN 0-415-05186-X.



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