Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Contextualism proposes that cultural products (for example, works of art, books, newspapers, television programmes, films) can only be understood if they are set in their historical and cultural context.

explanatory context

Contextualism is notable in discussions about works of art and is opposed to the view that art should simply be seen in the context of other works of art as tends to be the case in traditional art history and art criticism.

analytical review

Black (2006) wrote:

In very general terms, epistemological contextualism maintains that whether one knows is somehow relative to context. Certain features of contexts—features such as the intentions and presuppositions of the members of a conversational context—shape the standards that one must meet in order for one’s beliefs to count as knowledge. This allows for the possibility that different contexts set different epistemic standards, and contextualists invariably maintain that the standards do in fact vary from context to context. In some contexts, the epistemic standards are unusually high, and it is difficult, if not impossible, for our beliefs to count as knowledge in such contexts. In most contexts, however, the epistemic standards are comparatively low, and our beliefs can and often do count as knowledge in these contexts. The primary arguments for epistemological contextualism claim that contextualism best explains our epistemic judgments—it explains why we judge in most contexts that we have knowledge and why we judge in some contexts that we don’t—and that contextualism provides the best solution to puzzles generated by skeptical arguments..

associated issues

For an endorsement of contextualism see DeRose (1999) 'Contextualism: An Explanation and Defense'

related areas

See also



Black, T., 2006, 'Contextualism in epistemology' in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy available at, accessed 3 February 2013, still available 1 June 2019.

DeRose, K., 1999,'Contextualism: An Explanation and Defense ' in Greco, J. .and Sosa, E., (Eds.)., The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology, Blackwell Publishers, available at, accessed 3 February 2013, still available 1 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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