Re: [xmca] Against Narrativity!?!

From: Paul Dillon <phd_crit_think who-is-at>
Date: Fri May 11 2007 - 12:15:36 PDT

  I like the way GS (any relation to the other philosopher Strawson?) separated ethical and psychological narrativism. In my hasty reading I didn't find an outright definition of "ethical" but it seems the Socratic "knowing yourself" was a repeated reference. His argument seemed to be mainly that Ethical narrativism's claim to universality is wrong, that people can be ethical without being narratives, without having the need to give their lives the unity of a single story, I think the adjective "single" is important here, calling forth the need for constant revision, the psychological equivalent of Orwell's Ministry of Truth, constantly revising the past to fit present circumstances. Thus the self to be known isn't necessarily the self about which you can tell narratives.
   I find it curious that people who defend ethical narrativism don't simply say that it works for them but claim it to be universally necessary. GS , an episodic by admission, doesn't claim universality for any of the positions. Any of the different types can be ethical (something that isn't really defined entirely or at all) although he makes it clear that he believes ethical narrativism has a lot of pitfalls.
   Shifting this into an older set of distinctions -- moving it to the level of the socio-cultural -- many cultures (primarily pre-agricultural ones) have been defined as being "without history" in the sense that the social experience doesn't have a trajectory toward some historical goal, no Manifest Destiny, no progress, rather archetypal repetition. I wonder if GS allows the episodic to include the archetypal, or does it necessarily entail random? If he does, the episodic/archetypal could constitute a strong basis for "ethics" in the Socratic sense of knowing oneself.
  The ethical narrativist's idea that all humans are fabulous novelists seems to me to be blatantly wrong. A tiny percentage can elaborate life narratives that tell a truly coherent story. A lot of guilt seems to be generated as a consequence of this defect. The pressure to have ones life be recountable as a narrative in which the beginning, middle, and end all hang together, rather than being a string of episodes whose meaning is not derived out of a temporal causality between successive events, seems an incredible burden. A burden that doesn't necessarily lead to ethical self knowledge but that, as GS pointed out, requires constant revisions that would just as likely lead away from self-knowledge. And the sense of guilt for failing to have a good narrative might even keep a lot of people from ever knowing themselves, not as an individual with a narrative-- like the life-stories of "the successful" that our destiny-ridden society holds up as models-- but simply as a
 human being endowed with miraculous abilities of all kinds.
  My two cents.
Mike Cole <> wrote:
  Check out the following paper at

So many xmca-o-philes and many others are convinced of the centrality of
in human life that this critique ought to provide some food for thought. Or
anger. Or.......

We have a big backlog of MCA issues coming along, but in the meantime, this
seems worth
checking out.

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Received on Fri May 11 13:17 PDT 2007

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