Charity, Interpretation, and Belief

Colin McGinn

in Knowledge and Reality

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780199251582
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598012 | DOI:
 Charity, Interpretation, and Belief

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McGinn argues that, pace Davidson, relational belief attributions do not require a principle of charity. According to McGinn, the requirement of Davidsonian charity turns on the false presumption that ‘most of what others say and believe is going to be true’. But, in this early statement of externalism about the mind, McGinn argues that a subject ‘may be intentionally related to an object … without being able to conceive it aright’; this is because a subject may see an object (which is sufficient for relational attribution) without having preponderantly true beliefs about the object she sees. Thus, because ‘intentionality is prior to veridicality’, we cannot discount the possibility of ‘widespread and deep‐going disagreement between interpreter and interpreted’. McGinn concludes by considering how his externalism about propositional attitudes mirrors Putnam's externalism about meaning, and how rejecting the principle of charity impacts Davidson's method of radical interpretation.

Keywords: belief; charity; Davidson; externalism; principle of charity; propositional attitude; Putnam; Quine; radical interpretation; relational belief; Twin Earth

Chapter.  7073 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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