Volume 51, Issue 2, June 2011
Two Case Studies in Charitable Interpretation
Among those who study medieval philosophy there is a divide between historians and philosophers. Sometimes the historians chide the philosophers for failing to appreciate the historical factors at work in understanding a text, a philosopher, a school, or a system. But sometimes the philosopher may justly criticize the historian for failing to engage the past philosopher adequately as a philosopher. Here I defend a philosophically charitable methodology and offer two examples, taken from John Marenbon’s book Boethius, as instances where exercising more philosophical charity would likely have resulted in more adequate or complete interpretations. The examples are taken from Marenbon’s analyses of the conclusion of Boethius’s discussion of freedom and divine foreknowledge and of
Boethius’s argument against Euthyche’s understanding of the Incarnation.