Reasoning Through Narrative

Episteme:1-15 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

A peculiar feature of our species is that we settle what to believe, value, and do by reasoning through narratives. A narrative is adiachronic, information-rich story that contains persons, objects, and at least one event. When we reason through narrative, we usenarrative to settle what to do, to make predictions, to guide normative expectations, and to ground which reactive attitudes we think areappropriate in a situation. Narratives explain, justify, and provide understanding. Narratives play a ubiquitous role in human reasoning. Andyet, narratives do not seem up to the task. Narratives are often unmoored representations (either because they are do not purport to referto the actual world, or because they are grossly oversimplified, or because are known to be literally false). Against this, I argue thatnarratives guide our reasoning by shaping our grasp of modal structure: what is possible, probable, plausible, permissible, required,relevant, desirable and good. Narratives are good guides to reasoning when they guide us to accurate judgments about modal space. Icall this the modal model of narrative. In this paper, I develop an account of how narratives function in reasoning, as well as an account ofwhen reasoning through narrative counts as good reasoning.

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A. K. Flowerree
Texas Tech University

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References found in this work

Knowledge and practical interests.Jason Stanley - 2005 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):200-201.
Knowledge and Action.John Hawthorne & Jason Stanley - 2008 - Journal of Philosophy 105 (10):571-590.
Is conceivability a guide to possibility?Stephen Yablo - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (1):1-42.
Narrative explanation.J. David Velleman - 2003 - Philosophical Review 112 (1):1-25.

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