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that all reasoning involves people and that, hence, knowledge and reasoning can never completely escape the influence of the social contexts in which those people exist and operate. Even if philosophical ideas about intersubjectivity are unfamiliar, their practical effects should be apparent. Have you ever been in a situation in which, despite the apparent 'logic' and 'certainty' of your argument, those listening to you have failed to agree with your conclusion? Have you ever been asked to learn something without understanding why you are learning it? Have you ever written a report or essay and been pleased with what you have done, only to be told by its readers that you have not done what was required of you? These situations come about when the author and audience of reasoning fail to work within a shared context of assumptions and expectations.

This context can be understood by thinking through the following questions about our own work (many of which we encountered in chapter 8 in relation to others' reasoning). Forget, for a moment, what we are reasoning about and think instead about the following questions:

• In what situation is my reasoning taking place?

• According to what methods, definitions, and broad understandings am I reasoning?

Knowing what context we are working within may involve 'fitting in' with what our audience expects and assumes, or it can require us to outline and discuss possible alternative contexts explicitly, thereby helping our audience to fit in with the context that we want to establish.

Here is one example of the importance of context. HIV/AIDS is generally regarded as one of the world's great health risks. We know certain things about the virus that causes AIDS, such as its methods of transmission (through blood and other bodily fluids) and the types of activities that enable this transmission (e.g. unprotected sex and intravenous drug use with shared needles). We also know what it does to human beings (destroys their immune system and indirectly causes their death). Now, as far as we can tell, these claims are objectively 'true'. Yet, think of the different sets of assumptions about, say, how to stop unprotected sex that would not be shared by a Western health expert and, say, a group of politicians from a conservative Islamic community. The Westerner, with a background of social freedom and individual choice, would be full of ideas about advertising campaigns and other strategies to encourage people to use condoms; the Islamic community leaders would be bemused by this approach—even actively hostile— since their framework of assumptions does not include such liberal attitudes to sex, nor does it include the use of condoms. Neither party is wrong here: it is neither rational nor irrational to hold either of these two sets of assumptions, as long as each fits in with the accepted practices of the community to which it belongs. Yet the possibility for misunderstanding is great, unless both parties make

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