Philosophers, and students of philosophy, are often advised to interpret other philosophers charitably. In this paper, I present an alternative to interpreting charitably. I call it “the simple-model technique” and use H.L.A. Hart responding to John Rawls to illustrate it.
In this paper, I propose that there are or will be examples where the principle of charity recommends an interpretation which makes a text more true than another interpretation, whereas the rival interpretation improves on making sense of its form.
In this paper I sketch a novel interpretationist account of linguistic content that has important consequences for thinking about intentionality. I solve the challenge presented by a foundational indeterminacy of reference argument to the effect that the meaning of linguistic expressions is radically indeterminate. Happily, my solution doesn’t require positing natural properties as “reference magnets”. Non-deflationist rivals to interpretationist metasemantics include various kinds of causal theories such as Fodor-style asymmetric-dependence accounts and Millikan-style teleosemantics. These accounts face their own indeterminacy challenges (...) that have yet to be solved, as well as similar indeterminacy of reference challenges at the level of individual words. Moreover, they must contend with our apparent reference to things that we are not plausibly causally acquainted with. If indeterminacy of reference arguments can be answered and we can avoid dubious use of natural properties, an interpretationist account like my own will be the strongest contender.. (shrink)
This paper aims to discuss a well-known concept from argumentation theory, namely the principle of charity. It will show that this principle, especially in its contemporary version as formulated by Donald Davidson, meets with some serious problems. Since we need the principle of charity in any kind of critical discussion, we propose the way of modifying it according to the presupponendum—the rule written in the sixteenth century by Ignatius Loyola. While also corresponding with pragma-dialectical rules, it also provides additional content. (...) This will be termed the dialectical principle of charity, and it offers a few steps to be performed during an argument in order to make sure that the participants understand each other well and are not deceived by any cognitive bias. The meaning of these results could be of great significance for argumentation theory, pragma-dialectics and the practice of public discourse as it enhances the principle of charity and makes it easier to apply in argumentation. (shrink)
The principle of charity is most often understood as that which justifies ascribing rationality to every interlocutor, regardless of the agent appears irrational. As such, a recurring question in the field of the philosophy of psychiatry is whether the said principle should be advocated as a way of understanding delusions as rational or should be rejected as a form of over-rationalization. The aim of this paper is to show, by defending an understanding of rationality inspired by the late philosophy of (...) Wittgenstein, that this debate relies mainly on a misconception of the said principle. Indeed, charity does not consist in making the mere hypothesis that every agent is rational, but more simply in acknowledging that rationality is the condition of every form of understanding. As such, the question we should be asking is not so much whether delusions are rational or not, but rather in what sense can speech be judged as irrational within our own norms of rationality. (shrink)
Davidson has attempted to offer his own solution to the problem of self-knowledge, but there has been no consensus between his commentators on what this solution is. Many have claimed that Davidson’s account stems from his remarks on disquotational specifications of self-ascriptions of meaning and mental content, the account which I will call the “Disquotational Explanation”. It has also been claimed that Davidson’s account rather rests on his version of content externalism, which I will call the “Externalist Explanation”. I will (...) argue that not only are these explanations of self-knowledge implausible, but Davidson himself has already rejected them. Thus, neither can be attributed to Davidson as his suggested account of self-knowledge. I will then introduce and support what I take to be Davidson’s official and independent account of self-knowledge, that is, his “Transcendental Explanation”. I will defend this view against certain potential objections and finally against the objections made by William Child. (shrink)
In this paper I argue for a pro tanto moral duty to be charitablein argument. Further, I argue that the amount of charitable effortrequired varies depending on the type of dialogue arguers areengaged in. In non-institutionalized contexts, arguers have influ-ence over the type of dialogue that will be adopted. Arguers aretherefore responsible with respect to charity on two levels: First,they need to take reasons for charity into account when deter-mining the dialogue-type. Second, they need to invest theamount of effort towards (...) charity required by the dialogue-type. (shrink)
In this chapter I argue that intellectual humility is related to argumentation in several distinct but mutually supporting ways. I begin by drawing connections between humility and two topics of long-standing importance to the evaluation of informal arguments: the ad verecundiam fallacy and the principle of charity. I then explore the more explicit role that humility plays in recent work on critical thinking dispositions, deliberative virtues, and virtue theories of argumentation.
According to Wright’s Judgement-Dependent account of intention, facts about a subject’s intentions can be taken to be constituted by facts about the subject’s best opinions about them formed under certain optimal conditions. This paper aims to defend this account against three main objections which have been made to it by Boghossian, Miller and implicitly by Wright himself. It will be argued that Miller’s objection is implausible because it fails to take into account the partial-determination claim in this account. Boghossian’s objection (...) also fails because it is based on an unjustified reductionist reading of Wright’s account. However, Wright’s own attempt to resist Boghossian’s objection seems to display a shift from his Judgement-Dependent account to an Interpretationist account of self-knowledge, in which case Wright’s new account would face the same problem which he himself has previously put forward in the case of Davidson’s Interpretationist account of self-knowledge. Nonetheless, I will argue that Wright does not need to make such a move because Boghossian’s objection is not applicable to his account. (shrink)
In “Real Patterns” Daniel Dennett developed an argument about the reality of beliefs on the basis of an analogy with patterns and noise. Here I develop Dennett’s analogy into an argument for descriptivism, the view that belief reports do no specify belief contents but merely describe what someone believes, and show that this view is also supported by empirical evidence. No description can do justice to the richness and specificity or “noisiness” of what someone believes, and the same belief can (...) be described by different sentences or propositions (which is illustrated by Dennett’s analogy, some Gettier cases, and Frege’s puzzle), but in some contexts some of these competing descriptions are misleading or even false. Faithful (or truthful) description must be guided by a principle (or principles) related to the principle of charity: belief descriptions should not attribute irrationality to the believer or have other kinds of “deviant” implications. (shrink)
The papers collected in this issue were solicited to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Donald Davidson’s birth. Four of them discuss the implications of Davidson’s views—in particular, his later views on triangulation—for questions that are still very much at the centre of current debates. These are, first, the question whether Saul Kripke’s doubts about meaning and rule-following can be answered without making concessions to the sceptic or to the quietist; second, the question whether a way can be found to answer (...) Davidson’s own doubts about the continuity of non-propositional thought and language; third, the question whether normative properties can be at once causal and prescriptive; fourth, the question whether folk psychological explanations can be at once illuminating and autonomous. The fifth paper reexamines Davidson’s take on the principle of compositionality, which always was at the centre of his theorizing about language. (shrink)
According to a classic position in analytic philosophy of mind, we must interpret agents as largely rational in order to be able to attribute intentional mental states to them. However, adopting this position requires clarifying in what way and by which criteria agents can still be irrational. In this paper I will offer one such criterion. More specifically, I argue that the kind of rationality methodologically required by intentional interpretation is to be specified in terms of psychological efficacy. Thereby, this (...) notion can be distinguished from a more commonly used notion of rationality and hence cannot be shown to be undermined by the potential prevalence of a corresponding kind of irrationality. (shrink)
This paper investigates the crucial notion of a "canonical ascription statement" in Bruno Mölder's /Mind Ascribed/, and argues that the reasons given for preferring the book's approach of canonicallity to a more common understanding of canonicallity in terms of the ascriptions we would "ideally" make are not only unpersuasive, but also leave the interpretivist position more open to skeptical worries than it should be. The paper further argues that the resources for a more compelling justification of Mölder's conception of canonicality (...) are already in Mölder's book itself. (shrink)
In this chapter I respond to objections that we should shift our focus from truth to objectivity, from prejudice to research, and from doctrine to disciplinarity. Disciplines are the same practice from differing perspectives and they allow us to triangulate on objects of interest. This entails that objects are discipline relative, and hence the insertion of social scientific concerns in the study of philosophy, as is common place in Indology, is groundless. Having entertained and shown that disciplines aside from philosophy (...) have nothing to teach us about the history of philosophy, I show that the common view that Indian philosophers were uninterested in ethics is a straightforward outcome of failing to employ the standard practice of philosophers (explication) in the study of Indian thought. (shrink)
Davidson holds that thinkers cannot employ radically different conceptual schemes, but he does not deny the fact that small-scale conceptual divergences are possible. He defends the former claim against Quine by appealing to interpretivism, the idea that ascriptions of intensional states to a speaker do no more than systematically record facts about the speaker’s behavior. From interpretivism it follows that it is theoretically irrelevant which set of concepts an interpreter uses to state her theory of meaning. This is what allows (...) Davidson to avoid conceptual relativism while accepting Quine’s thesis that behavioral evidence necessarily underdetermines assignments of meaning to speakers. However, as Davidson seems not to have realized, interpretivism also rules out the possibility of uncontroversial, small-scale conceptual differences. This fact, I argue, should lead us to reject interpretivism. (shrink)
Rudolf Carnap famously distinguished between the external meanings that existence questions have when asked by philosophers and the internal meanings they have when asked by non-philosophers. Carnap’s overall position involved various controversial commitments, but relatively uncontroversial interpretative principles also lead to a Carnap-style distinction between internal and external questions. In section 1 of this paper I offer arguments for such a distinction in several particular cases; in section 2 I defend my arguments from numerous objections and motivate them by using (...) points drawn from the general theory of interpretation; and in section 3 I discuss the meanings of external questions, ultimately arguing that they are best understood as involving primitive metaphysical notions, and that when so understood, it is natural to adopt a general error theory about philosophical ontology. (shrink)
Othering is the construction and identification of the self or in-group and the other or out-group in mutual, unequal opposition by attributing relative inferiority and/or radical alienness to the other/out-group. The notion of othering spread from feminist theory and post-colonial studies to other areas of the humanities and social sciences, but is originally rooted in Hegel’s dialectic of identification and distantiation in the encounter of the self with some other in his “Master-Slave dialectic”. In this paper, after reviewing the philosophical (...) and psychological background of othering, I distinguish two kinds of othering, “crude” and “sophisticated”, that differ in the logical form of their underlying arguments. The essential difference is that the former is merely self-other distantiating, while the latter – as in Hegel’s dialectic – partially depends on self-other identification. While crude othering is closer to the paradigmatic notion of othering, sophisticated othering is closer to Hegel’s, but so is quasi-othering, which is nearly identical in form to sophisticated othering, but which misses the defining feature of othering – attributing relative inferiority and/or radical alienness. Because Hegel’s dialectic applies to any encounter of an interpreting self with some other, sophisticated or quasi-othering is at least potentially a very common occurrence in the interpretation of others, especially of those who do not belong to the in-group. However, although othering is usually undesirable, the Hegelian varieties can provide a “mirror”, which can be used as a tool to improve understanding of both the other and the interpreting self, and the malignant aspects of othering can be avoided through charity. (shrink)
Dennett has long maintained that one of the keystones of Intentional Systems Theory is an assumption of rationality. To deploy the Intentional Stance is to presume from the outset that the target of interpretation is rational. This paper examines the history of rationality constraints on mental state ascription. I argue that the reasons that Dennett and his philosophical brethren present for positing rationality constraints are not convincing. If humans are found to be rational, this will not be because a presumption (...) of rationality must be built into the deployment of the Intentional Stance. It will be an empirical finding. Rationality will be an outcome of mental state ascription rather than a condition on ascription. (shrink)
This paper examines some of the interactions between holism, contextualism, and externalism, and will argue that an externalist metasemantics that grounds itself in certain plausible assumptions about self- knowledge will also be a contextualist metasemantics, and that such a contextualist metasemantics in turn resolves one of the best known problems externalist theories purportedly have with self-knowledge, namely the problem of how the possibility of various sorts of ‘switching’ cases can appear to undermine the ‘transparency’ of our thoughts (in particular, our (...) ability to tell, with respect to any two occurrent thoughts, whether they exercise the same or different concepts). (shrink)
Die Theorien der radikalen Übersetzung und der radikalen Interpretation gehören zu den einflussreichsten sprachphilosophischen Theorien der zweiten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts. Mit dem Gedankenexperiment der Erstübersetzung einer völlig fremden Sprache hat Quine einen originellen Weg gefunden, Grundfragen der Bedeutungstheorie vom Ballast traditioneller Annahmen befreit neu zu stellen: Was ist überhaupt sprachliche Bedeutung, wie hängt sie mit außersprachlichen Reizen zusammen, auf die menschliche Tiere reagieren, welche Rolle sollte der Bedeutungsbegriff in der Sprachphilosophie spielen? Radikal an Quines Übersetzungstheorie sind nicht zuletzt seine (...) Folgerungen. Sein Versuch, die Arbeit des Feldlinguisten im Dschungel möglichst voraussetzungsarm zu erklären, mündet in die These von der Übersetzungsunbestimmtheit und die Intensionsskepsis. Diese Doktrinen sind in der Sprachphilosophie hochumstritten geblieben. Sich mit Quine Rechenschaft darüber abzulegen, was ohne mentalistische Voraussetzungen erklärbar ist und was nicht, ist aber auch dann erkenntnisbefördernd, wenn man Quine in seiner empiristischen und behavioristischen Mittelbeschränkung nicht folgt. -/- Davidsons Theorie der radikalen Interpretation kommt das Verdienst zu, klassische hermeneutische Fragestellungen in eine allgemeine Bedeutungstheorie für natürliche Sprachen zu integrieren und mit Mitteln der analytischen Philosophie zu bearbeiten: Welches Wissen benötigt ein Interpret? Wie hängt sprachliche Bedeutung mit Absichten zusammen? Welchen Anteil am Verständigungserfolg hat der Sprecher, welchen der Interpret, welchen sprachliche Regeln? Überdies zeigt Davidson die engen Verbindungen zwischen der Sprachphilosophie und benachbarten philosophischen Disziplinen auf, insbesondere der Erkenntnistheorie, der Philosophie des Geistes und der Handlungstheorie. Er zeichnet im Spätwerk ein komplexes Bild davon, wie es Wesen wie uns gelingt, sich in ihrem verbalen und nichtverbalen Handeln miteinander zu verständigen, indem sie sich triangulierend auf eine gemeinsame, sprachlich erschlossene Welt beziehen. (shrink)
There are two main interpretive positions on Davidson’s project in the theory of meaning. The Replacement Theory holds that Davidson aimed to replace the theory of meaning with the theory of truth on the grounds that meaning is too unclear a notion for systematic theorizing. The Traditional Pursuit Theory, in contrast, holds that Davidson aimed to pursue the traditional project with a clever bit of indirection, exploiting the recursive structure of a truth theory to reveal compositional semantic structure and placing (...) constraints on it sufficient for its canonical assignments of truth conditions to be used for interpretation. This paper responds to a recent defense of a sophisticated version of the Replacement Theory by Gary Ebbs according to which Davidson was engaged in a Carnapian explication of meaning, intending to preserve only aspects of the usage of ‘means’ most important to us. I argue the Explication Interpretation cannot be sustained in the face of a detailed look at the passages that principally motivate it in “Truth and Meaning” when we take into account their local context, their context in the paper as a whole, and the context of that paper in Davidson’s contemporaneous work, and later work which tries to improve the formulations which he advanced in his early papers. (shrink)
Philosophical conceptual analysis is an experimental method. Focusing on this helps to justify it from the skepticism of experimental philosophers who follow Weinberg, Nichols & Stich. To explore the experimental aspect of philosophical conceptual analysis, I consider a simpler instance of the same activity: everyday linguistic interpretation. I argue that this, too, is experimental in nature. And in both conceptual analysis and linguistic interpretation, the intuitions considered problematic by experimental philosophers are necessary but epistemically irrelevant. They are like variables introduced (...) into mathematical proofs which drop out before the solution. Or better, they are like the hypotheses that drive science, which do not themselves need to be true. In other words, it does not matter whether or not intuitions are accurate as descriptions of the natural kinds that undergird philosophical concepts; the aims of conceptual analysis can still be met. (shrink)
I here investigate whether there is any version of the principle of charity both strong enough to conflict with an error-theoretic version of nominalism (EN) about abstract objects, and supported by the considerations adduced in favour of interpretive charity in the literature. I argue that in order to be strong enough, the principle, which I call (Charity), would have to read, “For all expressions e, an acceptable interpretation must make true a sufficiently high ratio of accepted sentences containing e”. I (...) next consider arguments based on Davidson's intuitive cases for interpretive charity, the reliability of perceptual beliefs, and the reliability of “non-abstractive inference modes”, and conclude that none support (Charity). I then propose a diagnosis of the view that there must be some universal principle of charity ruling out (EN). Finally, I present a reason to think (Charity) is false, namely, that it seems to exclude the possibility of such disagreements as that between nominalists and realists. (shrink)
In a series of papers, Eli Hirsch develops a deflationary account of certain ontological debates, specifically those regarding the composition and persistence of physical objects. He argues that these debates are merely verbal disputes between philosophers who fail to correctly express themselves in a common language. To establish the truth in plain English about these issues, Hirsch contends, we need only listen to the assertions of ordinary speakers and interpret them charitably. In this paper, I argue that Hirsch's conclusions rest (...) on a deficient understanding of the principle of charity. On a proper understanding of this principle, we can see that philosophical disagreement on these issues is not merely verbal. Further, it is no serious violation of charity to interpret ordinary assertions on these matters as false, for the beliefs they express can be explained as reasonable mistakes. Throughout I focus on the debate on composition; but my arguments should carry over to the debate on persistence. (shrink)
The thesis aims at a methodological reflection of logical reconstruction and tries to develop this method in detail, especially with regard to the reconstruction of natural language arguments. First, the groundwork for the thesis is laid by presenting and, where necessary, adapting its foundations with regard to the philosophy of language and the theory of argument. Subsequently, logical reconstruction, especially the logical reconstruction of arguments, is presented as a hermeneutic method and as a tool for the application of (formal) logic (...) and argumentation theory to natural language arguments. Logical reconstruction is presented as a special type of exegetical interpretation by paraphrase that is subject to (adapted) hermeneutic maxims and presumption rules that govern exegetical interpretation in general. However, in contrast to the interpretation of texts by natural language paraphrases, logical reconstruction leads to interpretantia that are logically explicit formal language texts and can be analyzed using formal methods and meta-theoretical concepts that are not directly applicable to natural language texts. By providing explicit and precise records of different readings, logical reconstruction can thus help to clarify (and maybe even solve) persistent interpretation controversies. Through an adaptation and specification of hermeneutic maxims and presumption rules, the thesis aims at providing suitable means for the systematic guidance and evaluation of logical reconstructions of argumentative texts. As a genuinely interpretative undertaking, logical reconstruction will be distinguished from the non-interpretative enterprise of formalization and from the development of theories of logical form, which provide a framework in which formalization and reconstruction take place. As exegetical interpretations, logical reconstructions of texts that are not readily formalizable can still be assessed with respect to their hermeneutic quality. The hermeneutic method of logical reconstruction can thus widen the scope for the application of logic and argumentation theory, because it allows us to use formal methods for the analysis and assessment of "difficult" natural language texts in a non-arbitrary, albeit indirect way. The last part of the thesis presents a manual for the logical reconstruction of natural language arguments, whose application is illustrated step by step. (shrink)
This paper is about the situation in which an author (writer or speaker) presents a deductively invalid argument, but the addressee aims at a charitable interpretation and has reason to assume that the author intends to present a valid argument. How can he go about interpreting the author’s reasoning as enthymematically valid? We suggest replacing the usual find-the-missing-premise approaches by an approach based on systematic efforts to ascribe a belief state to the author against the background of which the argument (...) has to be evaluated. The suggested procedure includes rules for recording whether the author in fact accepts or denies the premises and the conclusion, as well as tests for enthymematic validity and strategies for revising belief state ascriptions. Different degrees of interpretive charity can be exercised. This is one reason why the interpretation or reconstruction of an enthymematic argument typically does not result in a unique outcome. (shrink)
This chapter reviews interpretations of Davidson's project in the theory of meaning and argues against a variety of views according to which Davidson intended to reduce meaning to some variety of truth conditions or replace the project of giving a theory of meaning with a theory of truth, and in support of interpreting him as offering an indirect way of achieving the goals of the traditional project by appeal to knowledge of facts about a semantic theory of truth for the (...) language, including that it was confirmable from the standpoint of the radical interpreter. (shrink)
Intuitively, (1)-(3) seem to express genuine claims (true or false) about what the world is like, attempts to correctly describe parts of extra-linguistic reality. By contrast, it is tempting to regard (4)-(6) as merely reflecting decisions (or conventions, or dispositions, or rules) concerning the terms in which that extra-linguistic reality is described, decisions about which things to label with 'vixen', 'bachelor' or 'cup'.
Appeal to triangulation occurs in two different contexts in Davidson’s work. In the first, triangulation—in the trigonometric sense—is used as an analogy to help explain the central idea of a transcendental argument designed to show that we can have the concept of objective truth only in the context of communication with another speaker. In the second, the triangulation of two speakers responding to each other and to a common cause of similar responses is invoked as a solution to the problem (...) of underdetermination of thought and meaning by the patterns of causal relations we stand in to the environment. I examine both of these uses of the idea of triangulation. In section 2, I take up the use of triangulation as an analogy in connection with Davidson transcendental argument to establish that communication is essential for the concept of objectivity. I argue that it is unsuccessful because the case has not been made that scope for deploying the idea of contrasting perspectives, which is needed for the concept of objectivity, is available only in the context of communication. In section 3, I take up the idea that triangulation on a common cause of common responses of two creatures interacting with each other provides the additional constraint needed to assign objective content to our thoughts and words. I show that appeal to this sort of triangulation provides minimal help in responding to the problem it is intended to solve. Section 4 provides a brief summary and conclusion. (shrink)
This is a critical notice of Timothy Williamson's, The Philosophy of Philosophy (Blackwell, 2007). It focuses on criticizing the book's two main positive proposals: that we should “replace true belief by knowledge in a principle of charity constitutive of content”, and that “the epistemology of metaphysically modal thinking is tantamount to a special case of the epistemology of counterfactual thinking”.
In a recent article in Theoria , Hamid Vahid offered an explanation of the phenomenon of Moore-paradoxicality which employed Davidson's Principle of Charity regarding radical interpretation. I argue here that Vahid's explanation fails.
Our aim is to propose a non-referential semantics for the principle of logical charity: neither logical universalism (one logic, one way of thinking), nor logical relativism (several logics, several ways of thinking) afford an adequate conceptual framework to interpret the meaning of any speech act. But neither of them is totally wrong, either. The point is to know to which extent each of these views is partly right, thus leading to a more consensual but paradoxical-sounding "relative principle of charity". After (...) recalling the theoretical background of logical charity, we suggest a four-valued logic of acceptance and rejection (hereafter: AR4); then we explain how such a non-referential semantics does justice both to the champions of logical charity and its opponents. While endorsing coherence as a precondition for rationality, we argue that such a criterion does not entail that classical logic is a necessary conceptual scheme to interpret the others' beliefs. A better application of charity should take account of the questions implicitly asked by a statement, and we bring these questions out in replacing Quine's truth-functions by Quine’s verdict functions while emphasizing upon their varying degrees of strength. (shrink)
Thanks to their heterogeneity, the nine essays in this volume offer a clear testimony of Donald Davidson's authority, and they undoubtedly show how much his work - even if it has raised many doubts and criticisms - has been, and still is, highly influential and significant in contemporary analytical philosophy for a wide range of subjects. Moreover, the various articles not only critically and carefully analyse Davidson's theses and arguments (in particular those concerning language and knowledge), but they also illustrate (...) how such theories and ideas, despite their unavoidable difficulties, are still alive and potentially fruitful. Davidson's work is indeed an important and provocative starting point for discussing the future progress of philosophy. (shrink)
This paper is a critical response to Eli Hirsch’s recent work in metaontology. Hirsch argues that several prominent ontological disputes about physical objects are verbal, a conclusion he takes to vindicate common sense ontology. In my response, I focus on the debate over composition (van Inwagen’s special composition question). I argue that given Hirsch’s own criterion for a dispute’s being verbal – a dispute is verbal iff charity requires each side to interpret the other sides as speaking the truth in (...) their own languages –his case for verbalness comes up short. Hirsch ignores an important facet of charity, which I call charity to expressibility, viz. that we ought ceteris paribus to interpret linguistic communities as not speaking expressively impoverished languages. In fact, I argue that given his criterion, the debate over composition turns out nonverbal. I close by suggesting that even if the dispute over composition is nonverbal, the sides can arrive at a kind of limited conciliation through charitable interpretation of one another. Each side ought to interpret a great many of the other sides claims as “factual” even if false. (shrink)
Since Davidson's proposal to use a Tarskian theory of truth in order to develop a theory of meaning has been criticised extensively, it is decisive to ask whether Davidson needs such a theory as an assumption and premise in other parts of his work. Especially, many authors have claimed that Davidson's argument in his paper 'On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme' depends on his approach in the theory of meaning. It is argued that this interpretation is wrong and (...) Davidson's attack on conceptual relativism does not depend in any way on his defense of truth-conditional semantics. Rather Davidson's thoroughgoing holism and the principle of charity are the basic rationale for his denial of conceptual relativism. (shrink)
This paper responds to a critical review of our 2005 book Donald Davidson: Meaning, Truth, Language and Reality, by Frederick Stoutland. It identifies a number of serious misreadings of both Davidson and the book.
The principle of charity (“Charity”), in one form or other, is held by many and for various reasons. After cataloging discernible kinds of Charity, I focus on the most familiar versions as found in Davidson, Dennett, Devitt, Lewis, Putnam, Quine, Stich, and others. To begin with, I argue that such versions of Charity are untenable because beliefs cannot be counted, and even if they could be counted there is reason to believe that true beliefs need not outnumber false beliefs. Next (...) I rebut one of the arguments behind Charity, the intelligibility argument. If indeed beliefs are postulated simply as a way to make some system intelligible (predictable and explicable) then a number of theses ensue. First, it would be perfectly intelligible to ascribe mostly false beliefs to an intentional system, or even entirely false beliefs. Second, lower animals would have beliefs. Third, it would sometimes make sense to ascribe beliefs even to inanimate beings. And fourth, the resulting indeterminacy of belief-ascription would suggest a kind of irrealism about belief which may in turn be expressed by the slogan that rejects the container metaphor of the mind. (shrink)
According to Donald Davidson, linguistic meaning is determined by the principle of charity. Because of Davidson's semantic behaviourism, charity's significance is both epistemic and metaphysical: charity not only provides the radical interpreter with a method for constructing a semantic theory on the basis of his data, but it does so because it is the principle metaphysically determining meaning. In this paper, I assume that charity does determine meaning. On this assumption, I investigate both its epistemic and metaphysical status: is charity (...) a priori or a posteriori? And what kind of necessity does it have? According to Davidson himself, charity is an a priori truth and its necessity is conceptual: it is essential to, or constitutive of, our common concepts of meaning and belief. Not only does this generate tension within Davidson's own, Quine-inspired epistemology, but there is independent reason to think of charity as an empirical truth. Even so, charity might be essential to belief and meaning in the sense of being an a posteriori necessity. I conclude that our ordinary modal intuitions might well support charity's psychological-nomological necessity, but that they do not reach all the way to metaphysical necessity. (shrink)
It is often taken for granted in standard theories of interpretation that there cannot be intentionality without rationality. According to the background argument, a system can be interpreted as having irrational beliefs only against a general background of rationality. Starting from the widespread assumption that delusions can be reasonably described as irrational beliefs, I argue here that the background argument fails to account for their intentional description.