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12290Re: [XTalk] Lloyd Re: Choice

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  • Bob Schacht
    Jan 3, 2003
      At 12:04 AM 1/4/2003 +0000, Andrew Lloyd <a.lloyd2@...> wrote:
      >--- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Bob Schacht <bobschacht@i...>
      > > >My answer here is controversial in some circles (I don't necessarily
      > > >think its Wright's for example) but not in the pragmatic ones I'm
      > > >familiar with.

      Thanks for this exchange; it has been very helpful for me. No doubt, it
      will help me understand what I read as I proceed. You continued:

      > > >You don't choose which narrative to accept or believe
      > > >so much as it chooses you. This is to say that in the narrative
      > > >understanding of reality, as opposed to the perception of reality as
      > > >discrete facts or statements, you become part of a narrative and
      > > >take it up rather than discretely choosing from the pot of
      > > >narratives which one to believe and live out experientially. Thus,
      > > >we are part of a greater whole rather than the master of all we
      > > >(choose to) survey.

      My training was in anthropology, rather than philosophy. But I wasn't born
      as an anthropologist.
      Nevertheless, how I understand the paragraph above is heavily influenced by
      my training as an anthropologist.
      Does this mean that my narrative didn't choose me until I was in higher ed?
      Be that as it may, my anthropological training tells me that this
      "narrative" must be a cultural artifact that one absorbs by the usual
      methods of enculturation, the way you describe it. The mechanism of
      transmission would be the usual: Family, community, peer groups, etc. I
      will be particularly interested in where Wright thinks these narratives
      come from. So far, it seems that when he says "narrative" in the NT
      context, he means the "people of God" narrative, and therefore he must have
      the Tanakh and associated oral traditions (including legends and myths) in
      mind-- or am I barking up the wrong tree?

      > Hence "mapping" is an entirely inappropriate
      > > >analogy and its not so much "it sounds good to me" as "how could you
      > > >expect me, the person I am, to believe anything but that which I
      > > >do?" This, I will think will agree, is a somewhat different way of
      > > >conceiving of realism.

      Well, yes, but it also looks somewhat different to me as an anthropologist.
      Is Wright trying to re-invent the cultural wheel? What it sounds like
      you're referring to is "cultural realism" -- a reality defined by the
      culture, or perhaps a culturally-constructed reality. This may be news to
      philosophers, but its hardly news to anthropologists. Or, how is it different?

      > > Despite your disclaimer, this sounds at least similar to what Wright is
      > > arguing, if not the same.
      > > However, despite your closing sentence below, it makes of us nothing more
      > > than pawns of our
      > > own heritage, doesn't it? If "it chooses you," you seem to argue that we
      > > have no power to choose for ourselves.
      >Well, I'm not so concerned as to how close to Wright I am as I am
      >with trying to put across clearly my own position so I'll concentrate on


      >(I'm simply happy that Wright raises the idea
      >of a narrative understanding of reality.) The difference here is
      >that you clearly conceive that the narrative construction of
      >reality, that which put another way might be called the situated
      >outlook on life, makes us "pawns of our own heritage", people who
      >have no real freedom to choose anything meaningful. You would think
      >this, I suggest, because you harbour doubts as to how "real"
      >something can be that is part of some narrative that is "only my own
      >story", or some such. Thus, you have a problem with the idea
      >of "narrative" itself since, I'm guessing, you think there's just
      >something a bit false about it.

      Not necessarily. But as an anthropologist, I've at least been educated
      about the dangers of ethnocentrism.

      >At this stage (before I get onto
      >your next comment) all I'd say is that this does not follow. That I
      >perceive the world a certain way, or as part of a certain narrative,
      >does not stop me making choices, real choices, choices that make a

      Well, the difference is the extent to which choices are culturally constrained.
      Let me throw another anthropological curve ball: culture is not something
      that people "have", but rather something that people "participate in." This
      is because all literate cultures are sufficiently complex that no one knows
      the whole culture-- everyone participates in a different slice of it. A
      relevant First Century example might be Greek Gentile culture vs. Jewish
      Aramaic culture: there were many who were "bicultural," leaning to a
      greater or lesser extent in one direction or the other. Which "narrative"
      chose them?

      > > >Against this background we then start making statements, assessing
      > > >truth claims and adducing facts.
      >... But there's another point. These narratives
      >should not be thought of as simply fixed. (And here I develop
      >pragmatically on Wright's narrative understanding rather than
      >reproducing him.) On the contrary, narratives are what Stanley Fish
      >calls "engines of change". They are adaptive. People change. ...

      I will be very interested to see how Wright thinks this works. Of course, I
      am not surprised: Cultures change, too. Myths change (this in itself is a
      very interesting field of study.)

      > > I would venture to counter with the claim that Wright's claim (or at least
      > > your version of it) is true
      > > of the "unconscious" observer, but that through "consciousness raising"
      > one
      > > becomes freer to choose
      > > the guiding narrative of one's life, which again raises the question of
      > the
      > > grounds on which we can make that choice.
      >I think this point drops out after what I've just said

      I am not convinced that this is true.

      >but I do hold open the possibility that within the process I have
      >described there
      >will be points at which we see more than we thought we saw before.
      >(This is probably one of the changes I talked about.)

      But this is a change in the *person,* rather than a change in the
      narrative, isn't it? (That's your point, wasn't it?)

      > I would not use the language of "freer" or "more constrained" however
      > since, if
      >freedom is constraint, this language makes no sense anymore in this context.

      Who said freedom is constraint?

      Again, thanks for an interesting exchange. I await your correction if I
      have misunderstood.
      I am beginning to have fears, however, that Wright is anthropologically naive.


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