"When I meet my interlocutor for the first time I know nothing about his/her belief system, about the array of sentences he/she holds true. According to Davidson, I have no option but to assume that his/her belief system is very much like my own, that for the most part there is a massive overlap between our beliefs. This is what Davidson calls the principle of charity, a methodological maxim that regulates interpretation, guiding how we go about comparing and contrasting belief systems and correlating idiolects. The principle of charity says that we must assume that speakers believe mostly true beliefs and, therefore, for the most part their belief systems overlap. For Davidson, this is a methodological constraint on interpretation, an unavoidable presupposition of our interpretative practices: interpretations must be charitable in order to be meaningful interpretations at all; charity is a condition of possibility of interpretation. As Davidson (1984) puts it: 'we cannot take even a first step towards interpretation without assuming a great deal about the speaker's belief. [. . .] the only possibility at the start is to assume general agreement on beliefs' (p. 196)."
Principle of charity:
- We must believe that an interlocutors beliefs are like my own
- We must believe that an interlocutors beliefs are mostly true