Skip to content


You can attack what a person *said* or what the person *meant*. The former is more sensational. The mark of a charlatan (say the journalist Sam Harris) is to defend his position or attack a critic by focusing on *some* of his/her specific statement (“look at what he said”) rather than attacking his position (“look at what he means”), the latter of which requires a broader knowledge of the proposed idea. The same applies to the interpretation of religious texts. Given that it is impossible for anyone to write a perfectly rationally argued document without a segment that, out of context, can appear to be totally absurd and lend itself to sensationalization, politicians and charlatans hunt for these segments. So do some, but not all journalists.
Twitter mobs indeed go by these sensationalized statements: extracting the most likely to appear absurd and violating the principle of charity. With the growth of the internet get ready for more.
And you can easily tell if someone is a charlatan at their absence of use of the principle of charity.
I just subjected the principle of charity to the Lindy test: it is only about 60 years old. Why? Does it meant that it is bogus? Well, we did not need it before before discussions were never about slogans and snapshots but synthesis of a given position. Read Aquinas, 8 centuries ago, and you always see sections with QUESTIO->PRAETERIA, OBJECTIONES, SED CONTRA, etc. describing with a legalistic precision the positions being attacked and looking for a flaw in it and a compromise. That was the practice.

UPDATE- Bradford Tuckfield wrote: ” I think this principle is much older than 60 years. Consider in the book of Isaiah, chapter 29, verse 21: he denounces the wicked who “make a man an offender for a word,” implying that people were focusing on specific words rather than positions, and that this is a bad practice.”
So it seems that the Lindy effect wins.
Principle of charity – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In philosophy and rhetoric, the principle of charity requires interpreting a speaker’s statements to be rational and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation.[1] In its narrowest sense, the goal of this methodological principle is to avoid attributing irr…

Source: Facebook

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *