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People are storytelling animals; almost all forms of human communication are fundamentally narrative. Listeners judge a story by whether it hangs together and rings true with the values of an ideal audience. Thus, narrative rationality is a matter of coherence and fidelity. Storytelling Epitomizes Human Nature • • All forms of human communication that appeal to our reason are stories. Offering good reasons has more to do with telling a compelling story than it does with piling up evidence or constructing a tight argument.
Narration Fisher defines narration as symbolic actions—words and/or deeds—that have sequence and meaning for those who live, create, and interpret them. • Fisher’s definition is broad. • Narration covers every aspect of life with regard to character, motive, and action. • It refers to verbal and nonverbal messages. Paradigm Shift: From a Rational-‐world Paradigm to a Narrative One The mind-‐set of the reigning technical experts is the rational-‐world paradigm. • People are essentially rational. • We make decisions on the basis of arguments. • The type of speaking situation (legal, scientific, legislative) determines the course of our argument. • Rationality is determined by how much we know and how well we argue. • The world is a set of logical puzzles that we can solve through rational analysis. The narrative paradigm is built on parallel, yet contrasting, premises. • People are essentially storytellers. • We make decisions on the basis of good reason, which vary depending on the communication situation, media, and genre (philosophical, technical, rhetorical, or artistic). • History, biography, culture, and character determine what we consider good reasons. • The world is a set of stories from which we choose, and thus constantly re-‐create, our lives. • Unlike the rational-‐world paradigm, the narrative paradigm privileges values, aesthetic criteria, and commonsense interpretation.
Narrative Rationality: Coherence and Fidelity • We judge stories based on narrative rationality. • Fisher believes that everyone applies the same standards of narrative rationality to stories. • The twin tests of a story are narrative coherence and narrative fidelity. Narrative Coherence: Does the story hang together? • How probable is the story to the hearer? • Narrative consistency parallels lines of argument in the rational-‐world paradigm. • The test of reason, however, is only one factor affecting narrative coherence. • Coherence can be assessed by comparing a story to others with a similar theme. • The ultimate test of narrative coherence is whether or not we can count on the characters to act in a reliable manner. Narrative Fidelity: Does the story ring true and humane? • Does the story square with the hearer’s experiences? • A story has fidelity when it provides good reasons to guide our future actions. • Values set the narrative paradigm’s logic of good reasons apart from the rational-‐ world paradigm’s logic of reasons. • People tend to prefer accounts that fit with what they view as truthful and humane. • These stories include the timeless values of truth, the good, beauty, health, wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, harmony, order, communion, friendship, and oneness with the Cosmos. • Communities not based on humane virtues are possible, but Fisher believes these less idealistic value systems lack true coherence. • Judging a story to have fidelity means we believe shared values can influence belief and action. • Almost all communication is narrative, and we evaluate it on that basis.