Widgets The Good Place (Michael L. Umphrey on gardening, teaching, and writing)

"Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. - Benedict Spinoza."

Levels of storytelling, Part 3
     Master narratives and placemaking

The third level of storytelling is the level of master narratives. These are the large stories that shape communities and cultures.

The third level of storytelling is the level that postmodernists call “master narratives.” These are the large stories--such as those told by Karl Marx or Jesus--that sketch in the shape and meaning of human reality, and that thereby shape communities and cultures. The implication of the postmodernists has often been that these narratives are fictions, a conclusion that seems to follow from the fact that there are many of them, that they conflict with each other, and that we can to some degree enter or leave them at will.

It’s useful to draw on American pragmaticism here--the idea that our best approach to truth might be to select our beliefs based on what works. As pragmatist William James put it: “Grant an idea or belief to be true, . . . what concrete difference will its being true make in anyone’s actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth’s cash-value in experiential terms?”

By asking about experiential consequences, we can discuss the objective data of what happens to persons and groups who commit themselves to various values. We can use reason to assist our decisions about which virtues to live and teach: should we be warriors or merchants or saints? We can ask what sort of society has in the past emerged when most people lived the anything-for-profit ethic or the never-resort-to-force ethic. 


Posted by Michael L Umphrey
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2005 Michael L. Umphrey
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