In a recent number of this journal there appeared an article by Niall Shanks and John King-Farlow on the theory of radical interpretation as developed by Donald Davidson. In that paper Davidson was presented as an opponent of “metaphysical openness in general [and] … idealism in particular” and as a philosopher who has “sought to silence all philosophically challenging talk both about the ordinary speaker’s systematic errors and about the claims of revisionary metaphysicians such as phenomenalists or absolute idealists.” I (...) suspect that Davidson would be somewhat surprised by this description of himself. He might also wonder just what it means to be an “opponent of metaphysical openness in general.” Like any other philosopher, Davidson has his own views on matters philosophical; and, like other philosophers, he criticizes what he sees as false or mistaken in the views of others. One cannot help but suspect that what Davidson’s opposition to “metaphysical openness” really comes down to is his criticism of views associated with idealism. (shrink)
SummaryIn Davidson's Theory of radical interpretation the principle of charity plays a crucial role. However the principle is the subject of widespread misunderstanding. The author attempts to provide an overall account of the principle and in doing so details some aspects of the holism which characterises the Davidsonian approach to interpretation. Charity is shown as inseparable from that holism. Two aspects of the principle are distinguished and some objections to the principle are also considered.