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Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Dennett

“What you’re telling is just a story. It isn’t happening anymore”*…

Detail from Senecio by Paul Klee. 1922

Some find it comforting to think of life as a story. Others find that absurd. Galen Strawson weighs in…

‘Each of us constructs and lives a “narrative”,’ wrote the British neurologist Oliver Sacks, ‘this narrative is us’. Likewise the American cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner: ‘Self is a perpetually rewritten story.’ And: ‘In the end, we become the autobiographical narratives by which we “tell about” our lives.’ Or a fellow American psychologist, Dan P McAdams: ‘We are all storytellers, and we are the stories we tell.’ And here’s the American moral philosopher J David Velleman: ‘We invent ourselves… but we really are the characters we invent.’ And, for good measure, another American philosopher, Daniel Dennett: ‘we are all virtuoso novelists, who find ourselves engaged in all sorts of behaviour… and we always put the best “faces” on it we can. We try to make all of our material cohere into a single good story. And that story is our autobiography. The chief fictional character at the centre of that autobiography is one’s self.’

So say the narrativists. We story ourselves and we are our stories. There’s a remarkably robust consensus about this claim, not only in the humanities but also in psychotherapy. It’s standardly linked with the idea that self-narration is a good thing, necessary for a full human life.

I think it’s false – false that everyone stories themselves, and false that it’s always a good thing. These are not universal human truths – even when we confine our attention to human beings who count as psychologically normal, as I will here. They’re not universal human truths even if they’re true of some people, or even many, or most. The narrativists are, at best, generalising from their own case, in an all-too-human way. At best: I doubt that what they say is an accurate description even of themselves…

Read on for a challenging perspective: “I am not a story,” from @gstrawson in @aeonmag.

* Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

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As we rethink retrospection, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Samille Diane Friesen– better known by her stage name, Dyan Cannon. She was born on this date in 1937. An actress of accomplishment (she scored a Saturn Award, a Golden Globe Award, three Academy Award nominations, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame), her career began in B movies, but took off after a turn in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, for which she received her first Academy Award nomination.

Before her career took off, Cannon was married to Cary Grant for three years and gave birth to his only child, daughter Jennifer. Reluctant to discuss the marriage since their 1968 divorce, Cannon turned down lucrative publishing deals following Grant’s death in 1986. Finally, in 2011, she published a memoir. Dear Cary,  which became a New York Times Best Seller.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 4, 2023 at 1:00 am

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