Re: Ishmael & Narratives LO3612

Michael McMaster (
Thu, 2 Nov 1995 23:34:21 +0000

Replying to LO3559 --

Jim, I like the challenges of this conversation. Jim says:

> The problem I am pointing at is that the Newtonian concept of a universe
> governed by mathematically-expressible laws, inexorable, implacable,
> and universal, is logically incompatible with the concept of a universe
> in which stories can contain useful knowledge.

But wait! Isn't, in the way that I've posited things, the Newtonian
concept just another story. Never mind that it's astory that can't handle
being referred to as a story. That's *its* problem, not our problem. It
is, after all, a story that does have some utility.

> > Good stories, I think, are exemplifications of "laws" which provide
> > the detail, the richness, the deepened understanding of those laws.
> This is exactly what, on my view, stories are _not_. The series of
> singular events which is my life,

Where did this comment come from? Where do you find "singular events
which is my life" in what I said? *All* that I said is that stories add
richness. This neither suggests nor excludes what you said.

And I am quite happy to use your language of patterns. That gets away
from some of the Newtonian baggage of *laws*. I think we are agreeing in
that it is what we say - which is mainly inherited if its too be heard -
that creates it all.

> > The stories, if well formulated and told, are the connectors to
> > experience.

Again, I think you missed my point. *Connectors* doesn't imply that
the theories are explicit. It suggests that ways are being supplied,
frequently implicily, to connect something which is more abstract to
something in experience.

But you do raise something interesting - again.

> The kind of
> stories that provoked me to start thinking about this contain and
> communicate useful knowledge, but they don't seem to be based on theories
> at all. The fleece inspector, the silent consultant story, Tom Burke's
> story, Jack Hirschfeld's story of the rabbi saving his town, and many
> other stories that we have told each other here -- I don't find any
> theories in these stories. All I find are the events, and -- somehow --
> the wisdom, but no theories.

I suggest that you find no theories in these stories because the
theories are the presuppositions of the stories. The way that I use
theories is not some grand, exclusive and scientific sense but the
everyday sense of understandings of the way things work. (Maybe what
you are calling patterns?)

The exchange is useful for me. Was it good for you? (Did any of
what I said work for you?)

Michael McMaster