Narrative Paradigm Term Paper

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relied upon within the world of communications. This discussion will focus on the theory of narrative paradigm. We will discuss when and why the theory developed and how the theory of narrative paradigm has been researched. Then we will discuss the theory in detail including the views of rational world paradigm. In addition we will summarize what scholars believe to be true about the paradigm theory. We will also discuss suggestions for future research in this area.

When and Why the Theory was developed

The Narrative Paradigm theory was created in the 1970's by Walter Fisher. (Narrative Paradigm Theory, n.d) Fisher created the theory because he felt that the rational world paradigm did not take into consideration the need for the narrative form of communication. Fisher asserts that the rational world paradigm only took into consideration the argumentative nature of communication a theory that was made famous by philosophers such as Aristotle.

Narrative Paradigm Theory)

Many experts in the field of communications assert that narratives play an important role in communication; Fisher reasoned that any type of communication is actually a form of storytelling. (Fournier 2002) Fisher's theory contends that human beings are animals whose ability to reason is based own our ability to tell stories. (Fournier). The following paragraphs will discuss Fisher's theory in detail and provide some insight into the methods that he used to produce this theory.

Discussion of the Theory

Fisher's definition of narration is "symbolic actions -- words and/or deeds -- that have sequence and meaning for those who live, create, or interpret them." (Fisher, 1984) According to an article entitled "Fisher's Discussion of the Narrative Paradigm" the author writes that Fisher describes his theory as a rhetorical paradigm (Imamura, 2000) Fisher's theory contend that an individual ability to reason does not rest solely on discussion or argument but also on dramatic works and literature -- narratives. (Imamura)

Rational World Paradigm

Fisher asserts that the view that the ability of humans to reason is called the rational world paradigm and argues that his view of a narrative paradigm relates more to the thought patterns of human beings. (Imamura) In explaining his theory Fisher begins by describing the rational world paradigm.

Fisher asserts that the theory of rational world paradigm was created by the philosopher Aristotle and that the theory is based on epistemology. (Imamura) Fisher asserts that the rational world paradigm has five arguments:

1. Humans are rational -- meaning that they have the ability to reason and formulate solutions. (Imamura)

2. Humans use the Argumentative form of language in decision-making and communicating. (Imamura)

3. The circumstances surrounding a situation determine the type of argument that humans will use to communicate and express thought. (Imamura)

4. Rationality is dependent upon a human's knowledge, skill and ability to argue. (Imamura)

5. Lastly the rational world paradigm contends that the world is composed of rational puzzles that can be explained if they are analyzed and if individuals use reason to understand them. (Imamura)

Fisher also reasoned that the rational world paradigm "relies on societies that share a common language and require qualified people to engage in public decision-making." (Imamura) Fisher also asserts that the rational world paradigm is no longer valid as a result of modernism. He contends that modernism has introduced naturalism which confines the rational world paradigm to studies that are specialized and he also asserts that naturalism has caused the rational world paradigm to become unreasonable. (Imamura)

Fishers conceded that as a consequence of modernism, many have attempted to reconstruct the rational world paradigm so that it can once again be used in everyday argument. Fisher believes that no one has been able to accomplish this task and therefore introduces the narrative paradigm as a solution. (Imamura)

Narrative Paradigm

Fisher begins his description of the narrative paradigm by explaining human nature of human beings. His theory of the narrative paradigm asserts that humans can be classified into a new group called "homo narrans." (Imamura) Fisher also believes that there are five arguments that govern the use of the narrative paradigm. These five arguments include;

1. Humans are story-tellers -- meaning that by nature we desire to use narration as means of communication. (Imamura)

Communication and decision-making use the "good reasons" as opposed to situations. (Imamura)

3. Narrative paradigm asserts that good reasons are set into motion by "history, biography, culture, character, and also the forces in the language act" (Imamura)

4. The ability of individuals to narrate determines their ability to rationalize. (Imamura)

5. Finally the narrative paradigm asserts that "in order to live the good life, humans must choose and continually recreate a set of stories that make up the world." (Imamura)

Fisher contends that,

Traditionally, rationality was something taught, deliberated, and demanded a superior amount of self-consciousness. It is also normative and implies some form of hierarchical system. The narrative paradigm, on the other hand, proclaims that rationality is something attainable by all humans. It is also descriptive (as opposed to normative), and implies an ideal democratic society (rather than hierarchical)." (Imamura)

Fisher also asserts that his theory of narrative paradigm serves four purposes. The first purpose of the paradigm is to resolve the conflicts associated with dualism. (Imamura) The second purpose of the narrative paradigm theory is to serve as a moral construct. The third purpose of the theory is to confirm the notion of reason. (Imamura) (Imamura)The fourth purpose of the paradigm is to create a way for people to resolve moral conflicts.


Fisher reckons that his theory of the narrative paradigm is more valuable in situations that are not academic or that do not require a great deal of expertise. (Imamura) Imamura writes that there are three reasons why the paradigm is efficient. The first reason is because the paradigm can capture experiences that are not subject to intellect. The second reason is because individuals have the ability "to reflect and judge through experience not through formal teaching." (Imamura) Finally Fisher asserts that, "suggestion and identification operate narration, while argument is structured from inference and deliberation." (Imamura)

Research associated with the Narrative paradigm

Many of the conclusions that Fisher drew about the theory of narrative paradigm was proven by a book written by Jonathan Schell, entitled The Fate of the Earth as argument for the Narrative Paradigm. (Imamura) In the book Schell asserts that the rational world paradigm is reserved for scholars and experts in a particular field. On the other hand the narrative paradigm allows everyone in a society to participate in an argument and form an opinion on a moral dilemma. (Imamura)

In the book Schell argues that the use of narrative paradigm is essential in ensuring that the general public has a say in the decisions that are made by experts. (Imamura)

The belief of Schell goes back to Fishers notion that the rational world paradigm only encourages trained or rehearsed thought as opposed to actual reasoning that is presented in the narrative paradigm. Fisher believed that public moral argument was very important saying.

Public moral argument is publicized, targeted towards "untrained thinkers" and is a type of controversy that naturally takes place in many different fields. Public moral argument focuses on such issues as life and death. Public moral argument refers to obvious reasoning in the rational world paradigm and to "good reasons" in the narrative paradigm." (Imamura)

Scholars Beliefs about the paradigm theory

As we mentioned earlier many philosophers believe that narrative is very important in communications. At the same time they do not believe that it is the only form of communication or that it constitutes all forms of communication. Many scholars argue that argument is also a very important part of a humans ability to reason and that intellect and expertise is needed if rational decisions are to be made.

Some scholars also believed that the theory is inconsistent and deeply flawed. (Wright 2002) Some of the main criticisms of his theory are that not humans communicate in other ways other than story telling and that Fisher hasn't made clear the ways in which critics can make decisions as to what to stress: should they stress narrative probability if fidelity? (Wright) In addition scholars assert that Fisher has failed to provide standards for trying narrative probability. They also assert that "traditional rationality is thrown over in favor of little to replace it and that storyteller as expert overthrows the notion of expert witnesses."(Wright)

Ann Rosenthal of the American Communications Journal looks at the paradigm in an entirely different light by exploring the paradigms relationship to current technology. Rosenthal asserts that the internet and other forms of robotic communication raise additional questions about the theory. Rosenthal explains these feelings about the narrative paradigm theory saying,

The narrative paradigm can tell us, in many instances, what and why some communication is persuasive. What it cannot do is tell us why something persuades when the picture is deliberately skewed or distorted. Despite Fisher's continued insistence that we must hope to find reason…[continue]

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