[Research] Narrative and Understanding Persons_Daniel D. Hutto

We as a species might be appropriately named Homo narrans rather than Homo sapiens.

R.A. Neimeyer, ‘Community and Coherence: Narrative Contributions to the Psychology of Conflict and Loss’, Narrative and Consciousness: Literature, Psychology and the Brain, G. D. Fireman, T. E. McVay, and O.J. Flanagan (eds.) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003),167.

Reasoning of this sort is predicated upon the strong claim that ‘our interpretation of ourselves is constitutive of what we are’. 

C. Taylor, ‘Self-Interpreting Animals’, Human Agency and Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 47.

The fashioning of any self worthy of the name is the outcome of a peculiar kind of hermeneutic activity. Consequently, personhood is not an automatic birthright of all human beings – and it looks like it may be forever denied to other species of animal. Schechtman makes explicit this consequence of the strong reading of the narrative self-constitution view: ‘Some, but not all, individuals weave stories of their lives, and it is their doing so that makes them persons’.

M. Schechtman, The Constitution of Selves (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), 94. The clear implication is that those unable to tell stories about themselves – those who cannot self-interpret, although immune from self-deception, buy this at the cost of being cut off from the possibility of self-knowledge and ethical development.

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