Charity implies meta-charity

“It is irrational to believe others are irrational”. I ungratefully said that to a confidant who asserted that I was negotiating with a fool. I now wonder whether I was the real fool. If I believe my friend is irrational (in light of his attribution of irrationality to the recipient of my offers), then my epigram implies I am irrational. To avoid the implication that I am irrational, I must not believe anyone to be irrational. But then my epigram also forbids me from believing that someone else believes someone is irrational. I must instead believe that the non-existence of irrationality is common knowledge! 1. Volcanic rationality Can I simply repudiate my epigram? I hesitate because the epigram is a consequence of the principle of charity. Roughly, this interpretive principle states that all agents are rational agents. The standard reasoning behind the principle is a priori: there is a conceptual connection between regarding someone as an agent and viewing his beliefs and desires as forming a coherent system that makes his actions intelligible. Since errors about central a priori truths indict one’s rationality, failure to believe the principle of charity would be irrational. Consequently, charity implies all agents believe all agents are rational. Charity iterates. Since meta-charity would also be a central a priori truth, meta-charity implies meta-meta-charity. And meta-meta-charity implies meta-meta-meta-charity. And so on. Therefore, if the principle of charity is true, then it is common knowledge. So is meta-charity. And meta-meta-charity. And so on.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2004.tb00342.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 21,357
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 27 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Paul Saka (2007). Spurning Charity. Axiomathes 17 (2):197-208.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

47 ( #91,916 of 1,911,315 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

16 ( #37,841 of 1,911,315 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.