Root Metaphor

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The root metaphor of contextualism is often called the act-in-context or the historic event (Gifford & Hayes, 1999, p. 289). Of course, we could also analyze the act of "brushing your teeth" as a collection of individual components. But our everyday experience and understanding of the act is one of a complete and whole event, inseparable from its context.

Our common-sense understanding of an event also includes a sense of the purpose, meaning, and function of the event, and all of these depend on past events—or the historical context of the present event. For example, you probably brush your teeth because you’ve been told that doing so will prevent tooth decay, or because not doing so has resulted in painful visits to the dentist, or because you are getting ready for a date, or because your mother or father asked you to clean your teeth. Likewise, you may brush your teeth in the bathroom because you’ve found it convenient to do so in the past, and you’ve probably learned that a toothbrush and toothpaste are good equipment to use for this task, and that a circular motion is effective. All of these past events or life experiences, and more, contribute to an everyday understanding of why and how you brush your teeth. This is why context in contextualism refers to both the current and historical context of an act. It seems Pepper was basing his use of the term "context" on Dewey’s notion of context as "the historical situatedness of the meaning and function of behavior" (Morris, 1997, p. 533).

Contextualists analyze all phenomena as acts-in-context. Events and their contexts are separated into different parts by contextualists only to achieve some practical purpose. truth criterion of contextualism.