(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
This book collects articles from various authors about the importance of
narratives for the creation of the self. We have a strong feeling that we
are a particular "I" (our identity): where does it come from? At the same
time, we are capable of turning sensory input into a "narrative": we not only
catalog all the images, sounds, etc that we perceive, we also organize them
in "stories". It appears that there is a biological need to "make sense" of
our experience, and structure that sense into "narratives". Narratives seem
to link our current status to past events and future actions.
one particular case of narrative is the "autobiography": the story about
myself. Is that the cause or the effect of the "self"?
Another particular case of narratives are the narratives about others: as we organize their actions in stories, we construct theories of their minds, of why they do what they do. This separates the self from the non-self, and places the self in relationship with other selves.
Narratives are, inevitably, subjective. They do not, and do not intend to, "duplicate" reality: they interiorize reality, they interpret reality from the vintage point of the self. In a sense, therefore, our narratives "falsify" experience.
Jerome Bruner has claimed that narratives are not only an accident of nature but play an important role in creating our understanding of the community and of ourselves. In other words, Bruner believes that "making sense" (i.e., constructing meaning) is the fundamental characteristic of our mind. Indirectly, this is the central theme of the book, although no article by Bruner is included.
Katherine Nelson believes in emerging levels of narrative that occur in a way similar to what prescribed by nonlinear dynamic systems: the mind is a self-organizing system, that continuously rearranges itself and every now and then reaches a new critical level, corresponding to a new cognitive level.
Valerie Gray Hardcastle, on the other hand, argues that children try to tell stories even before they learn to master language. It is the biological need for narratives that helps develop linguistic skills, not viceversa. She argues that our memories have two components: a sensory component (the facts that we remember) and the affective component (the emotions associated with them). And the latter is more important. As children, emotions are everything. As adults, we simply learn to be more detached. We do not build abstractions from concrete facts via generalizations: we learn to perceive the world apart from our emotions.
John Bickle focuses on the "inner voice" that is continuously talking to "us" inside our brain. It is difficult to stop the chatting inside the brain. We spend much more time talking to ourselves than talking to others.