In the philosophy of language, the context principle is a form of semantic holism holding that a philosopher should "never ... ask for the meaning of a word in isolation, but only in the context of a proposition" (Frege x). It is one of Gottlob Frege's "three fundamental principles" for philosophical analysis, first discussed in his Introduction to the Foundations of Arithmetic (Grundlagen der Arithmetik, 1884). Frege argued that many philosophical errors, especially those related to psychologism in the philosophy of logic and philosophy of mathematics, could be avoided by adhering carefully to the context principle. The view of meaning expressed by the context principle is sometimes called contextualism, but should not be confused with the common contemporary use of the term contextualism in epistemology or ethics. The contrasting view, that the meanings of words or expressions can be (or must be) determined prior to, and independently of, the meanings of the propositions in which they occur, is often referred to as compositionalism.
The context principle also figures prominently in the work of other Analytic philosophers who saw themselves as continuing Frege's work, such as Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
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