Saturday, November 15, 2008

On the Principle of Charity

This is a discussion of the principle of charity. How many of you have ever heard of it?

1 comment:

Steve Lovell said...

I've certainly heard of this principle, and I try to use it whenever I can. It's the best way to avoid the "straw man".

One of my lecturers, Dr Stephen Makin, made this principle the basis of exegesis of ancient philosophical texts. Roughly his reasoning was as follows:

(1) Aristotle was a clever guy
(2) Passage X has two possible interpretations
(3) Interpretation 1, though more natural, would commit Aristotle to an obvious falsehood.
(4) Interpretation 2, though less natural, would not commit Aristotle to an obvious falsehood.
(5) Therefore, most likely Aristotle should not be interpreted along the lines of interpretation 1 but rather interpretation 2.