Marcin Lewiński, 21 March 2012, 16:00

21 de Março de 2012

ArgLab Research Colloquium

The Paradox of Charity

Dr. Marcin Lewiński, ArgLab, Instituto de Filosofia da Linguagem, FCSH, Universidade Nova de Lisboa


The goal of this presentation is threefold: 1) to clearly distinguish between the concept of “the principle of charity” as applied in philosophy of language and argumentation theory, defending the former, while criticizing the latter account; 2) to specifically identify a problem in a consistent application of the principle of charity in the dialectical analysis and evaluation of argumentation that I term the paradox of charity; and 3) to propose a possible way out of the paradox. The principle of charity is typically used in argumentation theory as a methodological guideline that directs an analyst into adopting the strongest, and thus most easily defensible, plausible interpretation of the argue's discourse.

I contend that such an account, while broadly advocated, misses the basic point of a dialectical conception of argumentation: that there are always (at least) two arguers to a debate, and they remain in a disagreement over the issue discussed. Therefore, an analyst who is charitable to one party to a debate (proponent), easily becomes uncharitable to the other (opponent), and the other way round. Thus we embark at a paradox. To overcome this paradox, I suggest to significantly limit the application of the principle of charity in general and to systematically look for contextual cues that advise more or less charity in a given situation.

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Faculdade de Direito Universidade Nova de Lisboa