What specifically did the first person say? In what way did the other person understand it?

Dr. Eric


Critical Thinking is Compassionate Thinking

One of the most important ways to grow intellectually (and otherwise) is to actually listen to others and seek to understand them as they intend to be understood. Yet it is all too common for people to understand others in ways that do not reflect the best and most fair interpretation of their intended meaning.

Prepare: To prepare for this discussion, take a careful look at the sections of Chapter 9 about the Principle of Accuracy and the Principle of Charity. Take a look as well at the required resources from this week.

Reflect: Find specific examples in the media or in life in which someone misunderstands someone else. This happens a lot with political and religious arguments, but it also happens in daily life, especially when we find ourselves in conflict with others. Have you interpreted others uncharitably?

Write: Present a case, either in the media or in your own life, of a case in which someone interpreted another uncharitably, and answer the following questions:

  1. What is the principle of charity? (Cite the textbook here!)
  2. What specifically did the first person say? In what way did the other person understand it? What did the person really mean?
  3. Do you think that the misunderstanding was intentional? What were the consequences of the misunderstanding?
  4. How might the situation have been better if the person had practiced the principle of charity? (Tie your answer explicitly to the definition of the principle of charity from the textbook!)
  5. Finally, are there areas in which you could do more to understand others favorably? How might you be a wiser person if you did so?


Guided Response: Respond to the examples presented by your classmates in a way that furthers the conversation. You might, for example, share an example in your own life in which you have experienced a similarly uncharitable interpretation of someone (and what the consequences were). You might add further thoughts to their answers to the questions. You might offer another possible charitable interpretation of what the first person said. You might offer suggestions for things that people can do to further better mutual understanding. In any case, let your response further the goal of the appreciation of the shared goal of furthering charitable interpretation.


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