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Ideas out of context are like fish out of water; are they In this question the word context could refer to literal linguistic context. More figuratively, it could mean an idea as an entity being removed from the atmosphere in which it was conceived. In the case of the latter, an interesting question arises about the universality of man-made ideas…
Conversely, an historian may take the position that every period of history is its own separate context despite the similar vein of human nature which flows through it. In this case, the latter will be found to be most valid, by examining how the perception of great ideas can be distorted by both the author's and audience's biases, as well as the language of the time period.
As Andrew Levine writes, "[p]hilosophers, like everyone else, are creatures of their time and place. It can be misleading, therefore, to ignore the context in which philosophical positions arise."1 As proof that philosophers at the very least run the risk of being influenced by their political contexts, consider the works of Hobbes. He rewrote his political philosophy three times, changing his views in response to political events.2 In order to analyze his ideas, one should also be aware of these events, in order to know exactly what factors dominated the bias of Hobbes at the time of each writing. Viewing his ideas out of context may render them, and the audience's interpretation, as illogical as a fish out of water.
One reason to study an idea in its context is to better understand what was going on in the thinker's mind to influence his writings. Because, by idea, we don't mean fact, we mean a notion created in the mind of a person. ...
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