Context and Relevance: A Pragmatic Approach

H. R. Ekbia and A. G. Maguitman. Modeling and Using Context (Proceedings of the conference CONTEXT 2001, Dundee, UK, July), volume 2116 of Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence, chapter Context and Relevance: A Pragmatic Approach, pages 156–169. Springer, Berlin, 2001. [url]


This article propose a pragmatic approach to the issues of context and relevance, where some foundamental assumptions of formal logic are still maintained at the theoretical level. Here the authors, usign some conceptualisations of Dewey, show that context has two components: background, which is spatial and temporal; and selective interest, which conditions the subjective matter of thinking.

Thinking for Dewey is a process of inquiry in which a confused, obscure, or conflicting situation is transformed into a determined one. For the authors, this can be achieved formulating a precise set of inference rules for mapping between actions and plans. Interaction with the environment would involve to detect and recognize the context explicitly and to revise the plans according to some reasoning scheme.

Logic is biased in embracing the contextual dependences outlined by Dewey, becaused the adherence to explicit representations is not fully characteristic of human behaviour:

1. Context, often, is not explicitly identifiable;

2. There are no sharp boundaries among contexts;

3. The logical aspects of thinking cannot be isolated from material considerations;

4. Behavior and context are jointly recognisable.

The pragmatic tradition highlights the action-oriented (actions also equals reasoning behavior) nature of intelligence. At the heart of intelligence lies the ability to find out what is relevant in any given situation, and to act accordingly. Pragmatic relevance, has mainly to do with “selecting the search space” rather than with the process itself.

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