The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"


One of the things that we do with language is to tell stories. In fact, one wonders if we do anything else. Even the simplest of communication or discussion involves many mini-stories.

The US psychologist Jerome Bruner pointed out that there are, basically, two kinds of thinking: the paradigmatic and the narrative. And they are like two different substances in that they represent the world in two different ways and they obey two different sets of laws.

They are irreducible to one another. One is reasoning, and the other one is narrating. One produces logical arguments whose goal is truth. The other one produces stories whose goal is plausibility. Abstract form is the key element of the former, whereas human psychology is the key element of the latter.

Bruner points out that human civilization has developed sophisticated analyses of how to think in the paradigmatic way (for example, mathematical Logic), but has little to say about how to think in the narrative way (how to write good stories).

Bruner believes that narrative thinking incorporates two dimensions: the "landscape of action" (the plot) and the "landscape of consciousness" (the motivations). The former outlines the actions and the actors, the latter outlines their mental states (goals, beliefs, emotions).

Following Lev Vygotsky, Bruner thinks that reality belongs to two spheres, the natural and the social, the former being more aptly described by paradigmatic thought (the sciences) and the latter being more aptly described by narrative thought.


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