Monday, July 02, 2007

More charity

In response to some of my earlier fumblings about the Principle of Charity and the reconstruction and assessment of historical philosophical views, Steve Makin kindly and gently reminded me of his paper: 'How can we find out what ancient philosophers said', Phronesis 33 (1988), 121-32. I had read this before but should have gone back to it because it is a very helpful and thought-provoking paper. I particularly like his strong support for the principle that we are indeed justified in using rational reconstruction of a philosophical view in ascribing a particular claim or argument to some philosopher. After all, we should assume that -- even ancient, even 'Presocratic'(!) -- philosophers were in the business of trying to offer what were to their mind consistent theories. Now, this does of course provoke the question of how we go about assessing what would seem a consistent theory to a given historical philosopher, so there is a certain amount of historical reconstruction needed also. But that's just as it should be.

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