The main paragraph on p. 35 is a nice illustration of what I called (at Sapere Aude) the “Principle of Charity”. It’s also a good example of how you can be charitable toward a view without agreeing with it. Here’s an exercise: pick a Unit 1 reading that you disagree with and, using the Principe paragraph as a model, write a (brief) charitable account of that reading
“Principle of Charity” on Diderot and slavery
Part 1: Since Diderot wrote in such a radically different time period, it is easy to dismiss his ideas as invalid. For example, Diderot justified slavery by saying slaves are incapable of reasoning, therefore are subject to slavery. Basically, he thought slaves didn’t use reason, because if they did, then they would free themselves. Since they don’t reason, slavery becomes acceptable. Obviously, we now are able to acknowledge all of the flaws in this reasoning. However, I don’t think that means we should completely dismiss Diderot. Instead, we should analyze the context in which he said it. He lived in a time when slavery was normalized and accepted in society, despite the countless moral problems. We can take this and apply it to our society. What problems do we have with our society and that we are blindly accepting of? What can we do to identify these problems, and more importantly fix them? Although I don’t agree with Diderot, I still believe there is value to what he said, and there are lessons we can take from it to improve our society today.
Part 2: How important is the studies of science in understanding humanities and how can we relate them to each other?