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In my last couple of posts I’ve raised some problems with the idea of demythologizing an ancient set of ethical views, such as those of Jesus. The gist of the problem that I’ve raised is that every ethical injunction – just as every teaching, doctrine, piece of advice, sentence, word, communication of any kind – is not just *framed* within a linguistic, cultural, social, historical context: the context is actually determinative of the meaning of a word, sentence, etc. And if that’s true, then ripping a communication out of its context means necessarily to alter – once could say to destroy – its meaning. That at least has been my objection.
And now I have a response to that objection from the other side. It is a two-pronged response.
Prong One: I don’t think that it’s fair to say that context is absolutely *everything*. Context is a *lot*, but a communication consists of a sequence of sensible utterances (or written symbols) that occur *within* a context. As such, they not only participate in that context, they also establish that context (for example, for other communications). And that means that to some extent the communication has some kind of independent status. The communication may make no sense outside of its context, but that does not mean that the communication does not exist. It simply exists within its context.
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