As I read more carefully into Walter Fisher's article "Narration as a Human Communication Paradigm", I'm impressed by his sketch of the divide between the rational and the narrative paradigms of public conversation. This divide clarifies for me the break between myself and those close to me over the issue of Trump politics, so I want to explore here what I think Fisher means.
First, Fisher posits two distinct paradigms for human communication: the rational and the narrative. These two paradigms need not be antagonistic — they can be complementary — but conflict is certainly possible, and I think that in the case of my evangelical family and friends, they are antagonistic. Let's see how and why, at least according to Fisher, who begins his analysis by describing what he means by the rational paradigm for public discourse.
The rational paradigm entered Western thought with Aristotle's Organon, and Fisher claims that regardless of its local variations over the centuries since, the rational paradigm has several consistent core features:
- Humans are essentially rational beings.
- Argument composed of clear inferential structures is the primary mode of human decision-making and public discourse.
- This argument is ruled by the dictates of the situation, the field, within which it occurs — legal, scientific, legislative, and so on.
- The rationality of one's argument is determined by subject matter knowledge, argumentative ability, and skill in employing the rules within a field.
- The world is a set of logical puzzles which can be resolved through appropriate analysis and application of reason conceived as an argumentative construct. (4)