Varieties of Contextualism

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Analytic goals are vitally important to the contextualistic world view. This is because the analytic tools of contextualism—its root metaphor and truth criterion—both hinge on the purpose of the analysis, and neither can be mounted effectively without a clearly specified analytic goal. The pragmatic Reese, 1993, p. 77).

Likewise, the root metaphor of the "act-in-context" is rendered meaningless in an analysis without an explicit goal because there would be no basis on which to restrict the analysis to a subset of the infinite expanse of the act’s historical and environmental context (Hayes, 1993b).

Contextualists can, and do, adopt different analytic goals, and the many different varieties of contextualism can be distinguished by their goals (functional contextualism).

  Descriptive Contextualism Functional Contextualism
Example Social Constructionism Behavior Analysis

Analytic goal

To understand the complexity and richness of a whole event through an appreciation of its participants and features To predict and influence events with precision, scope, and depth using empirically-based concepts and rules
Knowledge constructed Personal, ephemeral, specific, local, and spatiotemporally restricted (e.g., a historical narrative) General, abstract, and spatiotemporally unrestricted (e.g., a scientific principle)
Content and focus Individual-in-context Behavior-in-context
Preferred methods Qualitative and narrative Quantitative and experimental
Disciplinary type Natural history Natural science