(Return to Part 3)
Yet the other great feature of Darwin’s prose, and the organization of his great books, is the welcome he provides for the opposed idea. This is, or ought to be, a standard practice, but few people have practiced it with his sincerity—and, at times, his guile. The habit of ‘sympathetic summery,’ what philosophers now call the ‘principle of charity,’ is essential to all the sciences. It is the principle, as Daniel Dennett says, that a counter argument to your own should first be summarized in its strongest form, with holes caulked as they appear, and minor inconsistencies or infelicities of phrasing looked past. Then, and only then, should a critique begin.