Walter Fisher Response

The “rational world paradigm” compared to the narrative paradigm suggests that, in a traditional (Aristotelian) sense, argument is at the heart of what it means to be human.  Fisher does not deny the usefulness of this approach in many cases, however, this essay, “Narration as Human Communication Paradigm:  The Case of Public Moral Argument,” emphasizes a more pragmatic way of appreciating human communication (376). 

Storytelling is an undeniable aspect of how humans make sense of the world.  “The character of narrator(s), the conflicts, the resolutions, and the style will vary, but each mode of recounting and accounting for is but a way of relating a ‘truth’ about the human condition” (381).  To me, this suggests not only a more practical approach, but also one that is inherently more inclusive and open to individual perspectives.  “The actualization of the narrative paradigm does not require a given form of society” (383).  Fisher notes that the development of ethics and values occurs naturally through narratives, “a capacity that we all share” (384).  Therefore, it is not learned.  Because narrative rationality is highly variable, it opens the door for interpretation, thus, critique (385).  This is, of course, a beautiful thing.  It makes room for the individual and its complexities. 

Fisher’s main concern in this essay surrounds the issue of “public moral argument” and how the narrative paradigm might be more effective for understanding the way people behave and make decisions based on values.  “From the narrative paradigm view, the experts are storytellers and the audience is not a group of observers but are active participants in the meaning-formation of the stories” (390).  This seems like a worthy attempt to bridge an important social and political gap right now in our country—the interaction of “experts” (or those in positions of power) and lay persons. 

Fisher summarizes his argument for the narrative paradigm here, “people are reflective and from such reflection they make stories of their lives and have the basis for judging narratives for and about them” (392).  From our experiences we cultivate values, opinions and ideas—an ever-evolving process, such is life.  Due to the disproportionate ratio of experts to the rest of us, it would be unfair to say that one has better reason than the other. 

I’m curious to explore further “what makes a story better than another,” and how can one be truer than another (393)?