Charitable Trust

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The principle of charity is a methodological presumption made in seeking to understand a point of view whereby we seek to understand that view in its strongest, most persuasive form before subjecting the view to evaluation.

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. In its narrowest sense, the goal of this methodological principle is to avoid attributing irrationality, logical fallacies or falsehoods to the others’ statements, when a coherent, rational interpretation of the statements is available. According to Simon Blackburn “it constrains the interpreter to maximize the truth or rationality in the subject’s sayings.”

Neil L. Wilson gave the principle its name in 1958–59. Its main area of application, by his lights, is determining the referent of a proper name: