In defence of narrative explanations


It’s a popular and fashionable view that, like spiders the web, we humans weave the narratives of our lives, hunting for otherwise aimlessly flitting, perspective-less experiences. For in order to make coherent an incoherent, contingent (cf.: Rorty 1989) reality without a higher purpose, we need to wrap up the experiences of our communal and individual lives in stories. Despite this, narrative thinking has been subject to countless criticisms. Galen Strawson and Frank Ankersmit argue that narrative explanations are reductive and deprive the agents of the possibility of an authentic experience of themselves, others and the world. In our interpretation, however, these critiques fail to take into account the indispensable role of narrative explanations rooted in folk psychology in understanding and modelling ourselves, others and social reality. At the same time, these critiques point out that the social, conscious segmentation and fragmentation brought about by modernism require perspective descriptions rather than the old, uniform patterns of interpretation.

Released: Replika 127, 7–17.
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