On the use of the notion of narrative in ethics and psychology

CFS lecture by Professor Galen Strawson, Department of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin, USA & Center for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


The psychological narrativity thesis (PNT) states that if one is an ordinary human being then one experiences or conceives of one’s life, one’s existence, in a ‘narrative’ way, as having the form of a story, or perhaps a collection of stories, and—in some manner—lives in and experiences oneself through this conception. This paper argues that PNT is either [a] trivially true or [b] false. It lists eight claims about ordinary human life that may be thought to justify the claim that PNT is true, and argues that if any (or all) of them is (are) held to show that PNT is true, then PNT is trivially true, and to that extent uninteresting, because all eight claims are elementary truisms about human life. If PNT is to be an interesting thesis it must amount to more than this. But if it amounts to more than this then it’s false.